As the film starts, a group of men start a job at a building site. The management seem hell-bent on establishing and stamping their authority, but despite this (and in part because of this) a strong camaraderie is formed between the new labourers.
In a weirdly ironic twist the labourers find themselves living hand-to-mouth whilst working on luxury property designed for the affluent few. As a group they are exploited but within the group they form solid bonds and go out of their way to help each other. The way they quickly seem to become a family is quite touching, and they look out for one and other. It's not very often that a film deals with men's relationship with each other (other than the Hollywood 'bromance' films which are en-vogue at the moment, and those hardly reflect actual life), but Ken Loache has captured a chemistry which rarely appears in film.
Ricky Tomlinson seems at home when giving passionate speeches about how there should be no need for so many people to be homeless and jobless in 1990, there's no reason for so many people to go without. His diatribe seems so personal, and it's no surprise given that it reflects the socialist beliefs of both Ken Loach and Tomlinson himself who has a history of trade union politics in the building trade. It's Loach's magical and methodical way of matching the casting to actors who really don't need to act that give his films that incredibly realistic edge. Within the first ten minutes we get a very real dose of recession politics from the folk who feel it the most - folk who chase the few jobs available, ending up squatting in tawdry digs whilst being exploited by the people they work for because they know that there are plenty more desperate to fill the role.
There's a loose plot to the film which follows Steve (Robert Carlyle) and his romance with aspiring singer Susan (only she's not very good!). Carlyle's natural acting style lends itself perfectly to Loach's directing style and he obviously impressed as he appeared in Carla's Song a few years later. It's Ricky Tomlinson who steals the show though with his patriarchal and eminently likeable portrayal of the idealistic building site philosopher.