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Like Father (2000)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Elderly ex-miner Arthur Elliott, along with a number of old workmates, keeps pigeons in allotments overlooking the East Durham coast. His son Joe Elliott, also an ex-miner, takes a brass band rehearsal at a local school, where he criticises the playing of his 12 year-old son, Michael. Arthur and the other pigeon fanciers reject the council's offer to move from the allotments as part of a coastal regeneration project.

Joe owes money to Benny, and is tempted to take the money raised at a MENCAP charity night, but is prevented by the arrival of Jean, the charity organiser. Joe argues with his wife, Carol, over his plans to go out for the evening. Joe takes money that Carol has hidden in a tin in the kitchen. Michael tells his mother he is not going to band practice anymore. As Joe pays Benny at the club, Arthur shows Joe a letter from the council about the lofts. Joe arrives home late, and drunk, to find that Carol, who has discovered his theft, has locked him out of the bedroom. Michael overhears their argument.

Under pressure from the regeneration project manager David Hylton, allotment representative Brian tries again to persuade the pigeon fanciers to move, but is vigorously rebuffed. Meanwhile Michael gets into trouble at school and Joe takes a music lesson for MENCAP in the community centre. Michael visits his grandfather at the allotments.

At the project launch, David announces that Joe has been awarded a commission to compose a brass band suite as part of the regeneration scheme. Joe receives a call to sing at short notice at a local club. Carol calls Joe and tells him they need to talk. Meanwhile, Carol sews costumes at a Fancy Dress and Party shop, while Michael dresses up. When Joe arrives home, Carol tells him that their marriage is over and she wants him to move out. Michael sits on the stairs and listens to their argument. Joe sits sobbing in the kitchen doorway. He goes to stay at his father's house, though the two men have nothing to say to each other. Joe rents a caravan on a site overlooking the coast. He calls Carol and asks to come home. She hangs up.

At the allotments, Arthur calls Brian a 'scab'. Brian retaliates by showing Arthur a press cutting about Joe's commission. In the caravan, Joe watches a television documentary on mining, and begins to compose the suite. The brass band begins rehearsals. Joe plays in a band for a local tea dance. Afterwards, Willie tells Joe that his father used to love music until the death, aged five, of Joe's older brother Michael.

David visits the allotments but, following an argument, is chased off by Arthur wielding a spade. Joe, still composing, receives a call from Carol. She wishes him happy birthday, and says that Michael needs to see him. Joe readily agrees, and asks Carol to listen to the music. She is moved by what she hears but ends the call abruptly.

Joe takes Michael to the dog racing, but they find it difficult to talk. David visits Joe at the caravan and tries to pressure to persuade Arthur to leave the allotments, implying he may cancel the commission. Struggling to find a theme for the final movement of the suite, Joe remembers the tune constructed by the MENCAP group. At a local graveyard, Michael and some other boys find Michael Elliott's gravestone. The other boys taunt Michael that it is his grave.

On the allotment, Arthur discovers that all his pigeons have been killed. He lures David to the allotment, indicating he is willing to come to a settlement. Joe arrives at the allotment to find Arthur armed with a shotgun. Michael watches them argue from the roof of the loft. Joe notices movement from the shed. Forcing his way past Arthur, he discovers David, bound and gagged. Joe tells Arthur he has rejected the commission, and releases David. Arthur attempts to shoot David, but Joe wrests the gun from him. Startled by these events, Michael falls from the roof, but is unhurt. The three generations are finally reconciled.