Submitted by Julio M
The film is a dramatization of the long-term aftermath of a global nuclear conflagration, based on a fictional scenario that takes place after escalating hostilities between the Soviet Union and the United States when the former invades Iran after the latter backed a coup d’état to install a puppet regime and the NATO allies eventually get involved. The bulk of the focus is in England, specifically the City of Sheffield.
When an all-out war becomes imminent, the Emergency Powers Act is enacted in all of the United Kingdom, and panic ensues. The local Sheffield government moves underground for protection, trying to coordinate all efforts from a bunker. A nuclear missile exchange occurs, disrupting communications throughout the continent and causing major infrastructural damage and life loss -one bomb is seen exploding a few miles off Sheffield, plunging the whole city into total chaos-.
The collapse of civilization begins immediately afterward. All services are permanently stopped. Fires burn out of control. Nuclear fallout hinders any rescue efforts due to the extreme risk that exposure to it carries. As time passes, nothing goes back to normal; after many weeks, the local authorities are found dead inside the bunker. Dead bodies pile up everywhere, which summons rats and, in consequence, the resurgence of diseases that, for centuries, were considered to have disappeared from the area.
Lawlessness becomes rampant, and the functioning form of Government -based on remnants of the military- uses summary capital punishment to maintain what little order they can. Whatever little food can be found becomes the only form of currency and can be either given or retained according to people’s behavior. Nuclear winter sets over the course of the following few years, lowering temperatures and blocking sunlight, which, in turn, almost completely annihilates agriculture, contributing to food scarcity; it also contributes to an increase in cataracts and cancers.
Ruth (Karen Meagher), whose entire family, including her fiancé Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale), was lost in the initial catastrophe, having managed to survive and being pregnant with Jimmy’s child, gives birth alone and in squalor in the countryside in Buxton.
The plot forwards to ten years later; we can see that the sunlight has mostly been able to come back, but society was never able to go back to levels before the war. Instead, a delicate balance between Medieval and rudimentary industrial conditions was established. People struggle to grow their own food, mostly with manual implements and extremely limited access to whatever technology was possible to salvage. The population was reduced to between 4 and 11 million in total (down from approximately 45-50 million people at the time of the war). Any children born after the war are severely under-educated -we see a scene of what appears as a makeshift classroom with children and teens of all ages, gathered watching a blurry, barely functioning VHS tape of a Sesame Street-like show, with Kindergarten-level teachings-, speak an unintelligible, guttural form of English and are prone of genetically-induced diseases and mental deficiencies. Ruth eventually dies, prematurely aged and semi-blind from cataracts, and her daughter Jane (Victoria O’Keefe) barely reacts to it.
A few years later, Jane, now a young woman and all alone in the world, is seen quarreling with a couple of boys, Spike (Lee Daley) and Gaz (Marcus Lund), over some bread, they try to steal. They all get caught and shot at; Jane and Spike manage to run away, but Gaz is killed. Jane and Spike wind up in a barn, fighting for the food; Spike overpowers her, and although not shown, it is implied he rapes her. Towards the end, Jane is seen heavily pregnant, walking through the derelict ruins of a town, amongst hanged corpses and rubble, heading to a hospital to give birth. After she does, the midwife hands her a stillborn, deformed baby, and the film ends as she screams in horror.