This is a tale of a bunch of moonlighting early 1980s Polish building workers, just arrived from Warsaw, who sweat day and night to renovate a wrecked London flat owned by a communist government official as a weekend pad. Their foreman (Jeremy Irons) has to crack the whip keeping them up to the mark even on Christmas Day as a drama unfolds back in Poland where the military launch a coup to unseat the governemtn who are being too soft on restive Solidarity workers. Irons is desperate to keep the news from them in case they take fright and rush to the airport and home, forsaking his and their bonuses.
This is quite a promising thesis for a small scale movie which the director Jerzy Skolimowski handles gingerly rather than grabs with both hands. There's a curiously muffled tone to the whole thing - events and motivations are often half explained, and the viewer is left to fill in quite a few gaps in narrative and particularly re. the political situation in Poland (anyone less than 40 who is not a fairly keen student of politics and history is likely to be quite baffled by the unfolding events in Warsaw as they impinge on our merry band of builders).
But this failing is not critical as the film has lots of charm and is oddly soothing to watch. There are amusing and even poignant scenes of a London oblivious to the presence amongst it of the Poles as Irons (excellent; on screen the whole time, and the only character in the film who is at all developed) scrapes by on a rock bottom budget by fair means and foul.
This is a small scale, low budget film that leaves the viewer wondering whether it acquired ideas above its station in abandoning the TV studio for its grander film relative, but which I recommend for those looking for a quirky sidelight on a social issue that still and even more strongly preoccupies us nearly 30 years after it was made.