James' family lives in a poor neighborhood of Glasgow in the late 1970s. While they wait for relocation to a nicer part of town, James makes do with playing by the canal with Margaret Anne and Kenny. Margaret Anne is older, and willing to sleep with the local boys for a bit of affection, while Kenny loves animals, but is slow-witted. As the garbage piles up during a prolonged strike by the garbage collectors, James dreams of a better life and tries to escape the realities of his family and personal tragedies. As his family's dream of moving to a new home slowly fades, James also finds himself increasingly estranged from his loved ones and surroundings. The only place where he can find any solace is in a half-constructed housing subdivision in the pastoral suburbs--a bus journey away--for it is here where James feels he truly belongs.