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My Ain Folk (1973)


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!

After the death of their maternal grandmother an attempt is made to take Jamie and his cousin Tommy into care, but Jamie takes shelter in his paternal grandmother's house. She tells a welfare officer that the boy is welcome to stay, then subjects the boy to an angry tirade about how his mother ruined her son's life.

The complex patterns of family relationship only gradually becomes clear: Jamie's grandmother lives next door to the house where her favourite son (Jamie's father) lives with Agnes, who the grandmother hates, and the couple's son. The grandmother's house is also occupied by her other son, just returned from the war, who is himself carrying on an affair with Agnes. When his grandmother attacks the neighbouring house while brandishing a knife, Jamie runs away, but is brought back by a policeman. His ill-treatment includes being forbidden to use the toilet and being shut outside in the snow, and his misery is compounded when he learns from his grandmother that his mother has died in the asylum to which she had been committed.

Like his cousin, Jamie appears to gain some solace from visits to the cinema, and does finds a companion when an ambulance brings his paternal grandfather home from hospital. However his grandfather is too weak to stand up to his wife, his longstanding relationship with a woman in the village makes him the constant subject of his wife's taunts, and the old man becomes increasingly despondent himself.

Having received a letter from Tommy, Jamie visits him in the Edinburgh care home in which he has been placed. He is accompanied by Tommy's father, who uses the occasion to justify himself for not taking his son home with him. Jamie is given the key to his old house by his grandmother, and told to look for the pearls apparently hidden there by his mother. He finds what he believes to be a set of pearls hidden in a pillow, but buries them in a coal heap, earning him a beating from his uncle when he denies finding anything. The uncle is later thrown out the house by Jamie's grandmother, the antagonism between the grandmother and Agnes culminating in a night-time fight between the two women. Having met another woman, Jamie's father drives away with her. Jamie's grandfather dies, and Jamie is taken away to the Edinburgh care home.