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Eskimo Day (1996)


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!

Three young people are accompanied by their parents to a day of interviews for acceptance to Queen's College, Cambridge: Neil Whittle from Blackburn, Pippa Lloyd from Cheltenham, and Malcolm Judd from London. Neil's parents, Shani and Bevis, have a sleepless night, nervously anticipating the day's events, and Shani performs the first in a litany of superstitious rituals. Pippa's father Hugh, himself a graduate of Queen's, is very keen for his daughter to follow in his footsteps and badgers her with possible current affairs questions, while aggressively blaming his wife Harriet for Pippa's irritated responses. Malcolm has forbidden his mother to accompany him to Cambridge, and leaves on the bus alone, but she furtively follows on the next coach.

Simon, one of the interviewers for the day, arrives at his father James's home to find him unprepared for their planned visit later in the day to a sheltered home development where Simon hopes to house his father. James, a retired professor, would much rather remain in his own home and proves obstinate.

As the Whittles are driving to Cambridge, Shani spots a single magpie and almost causes an accident by insisting that Bevis drive three times around the nearest roundabout to fend off bad luck. Arriving in Cambridge and pulling over to ask directions, they inadvertently splash Isabel, a girl on her way to a job interview. The Lloyds travel by train, and by the time they reach Cambridge tempers have frayed. Hugh revels in his return to his alma mater and suggests they have tea in a café he frequented as a student. There, the Lloyds and Whittles meet for the first time, and it transpires that both Neil and Pippa are applying for English Literature. Also in the café, another prospective student, Rosemary, is forced by her father to go running in a bid to keep her adrenalin level high. She twists her ankle.

Malcolm, meanwhile, is being tailed by his mother, who asks strangers on the street to find out from him how his interviews are progressing. Shani gives Neil his grandmother's wedding ring as a good luck token. Another candidate, Miss Bodley, dries during her interview with Simon, as Neil and Pippa wait outside and begin chatting. While Bevis and Hugh discuss their different experiences of fatherhood, Shani pays an inconclusive visit to a fortune-teller and Harriet takes to prayer.

Having survived their interviews with Simon, Neil and Pippa delay returning to meet their parents, who have reconvened at the café. There, Shani bumps into Isabel for the third time and, learning that she is about to interview for a waitressing position, puts in a good word for her with the owner; Isabel gets the job. Neil and Pippa finally turn up at the café, having bonded over a bag of chips.

Simon and James inspect the sheltered home development. Despite the enthusiastic efforts of the managers, Simon is ashamed that he has considered placing his father there against his will, and he turns down the offer of a place, much to his father's delight. Malcolm's mother is forced to share a coach back to London with her son, but he fails to notice her, and back in the London bus station, she does not admit where she has been.

As Neil and Pippa leave their parents for their second interview of the day, Shani is unsettled by the unusual wave that Neil gives to her and is convinced it is a moment of transition, something that Hugh also senses. She laments the future that faces them all, now that their children are about to fly the nest.

After the interview, Hugh's ignorance of Cambridge is revealed and Harriet is furious when it becomes clear that he never studied there. Neil and Pippa leave the college, promising to see each other again, even if that means going to Exeter University instead of Cambridge. An attempted kiss is interrupted by a jovial Simon. As the families go their separate ways, Harriet and Pippa leaving by taxi without Hugh, Miss Bodley finds the wedding ring that Neil has accidentally dropped.