Both the book and the movie have somber moments.
- Ethel's weakening after giving birth to Raymond; he remains their only child due to concerns for her health.
- Ernest and Ethel's struggle during World War II. Their house is damaged during bombing raids by the Luftwaffe, they have to evacuate Raymond to the countryside for his safety and then worry about what might happen to him while they can't watch over him, and Ernest suffers trauma from seeing dead children when he is assigned as a rescue worker in the bombed-out area.
- Raymond Briggs' wife, Jean, suffered from Schizophrenia, which meant that her mental illness became the main obstacle for starting a family. Even worse since Jean herself died from leukemia two years after Ethel and Ernest's deaths. Relatedly, Ethel quickly acquiesces that she won't become a grandmother. Despite her somewhat innocent and sometimes narrow worldview, even she knows the gravity of suffering from a mental illness, so she immediately drops the subject. All her son could do is hold her hand and try to comfort her with a simple "never mind."
- As Ethel's senility worsens, she forgets her Christmas party, her husband, and even her entire marriage. After Ernest leaves at the end of a visit while Raymond stays behind, Ethel asks him who the other visitor was, and doesn't seem to process the answer, leaving Raymond despondent.
- Ernest's miserable life as he still continues the daily routine as if Ethel was alive just to cope with her passing. It doesn't last long as he has a fatal heart attack just months after Ethel dies.