Joe, estranged from his father Sam for the past thirty years, has been summoned under false pretences by his sister Rose to Sam’s deathbed. As he travels between the airport and the hospital, old familiar places remind Joe of the first of the beatings from Sam that eventually drove him away. At the hospital Rose reveals that their mother died in the mugging in which Sam was critically injured. Rose hopes for reconciliation between the two men, but how, Sam has only hours to live and is not conscious, or is he?
In support of Rose, Joe, against all his instincts, enters Sam’s hospital room. As Joe and Rose speak we see through flashback the events in the 1980’s that led to Joe leaving home. It is a story of prejudice, intolerance and fighting. Their small Cheshire town had always been divided; by the river, the chapel and the church, the Grammar and Secondary Schools, and the rivalry between incoming Scousers, from the urban clearances of Liverpool, and the locals, the Woollybacks. Ultimately it was Joe’s love for a Scouser that precipitated the final breakdown between father and son.
Through the thoughts of Sam we see that their stories have parallels, but it was Sam’s prize-fighting background that proved his undoing, and whilst defending his family the only way he knew how, his violent temper was never under control.
As Sam’s condition deteriorates Joe and Rose are given the option to alleviate his suffering, but Rose is unable to go through with it, leaving Joe alone with Sam for the first time since he left home at the age of sixteen. Only now does Sam briefly open his eyes and let Joe know that he is conscious. At this Joe vents his anger and finally tells Sam why he was expelled from school, an expulsion that led Sam to hit Joe one final time. When the circumstances are known, Sam realises the true enormity of his mistake; his guilt is overwhelming and triggers his final relapse.
Seeing his father fighting for air yet unable to breathe Joe relents and administers the diamorphin, causing Sam to relax and die. It is now Joe’s body that heaves with emotion as he remembers a time when they were close.