After her father’s funeral, American student Caitlin (Laura Harrier) leaves her grieving mother (Kate Dickie) behind to return to her third-year studies at the Glasgow School of Art. There she juggles her grief and end-of-year presentation with meeting a new guy, Rory (Scott Miller), and a rupture in her relationship with her housemate and BFF Hannah (Bria Vinaite). Can she again find balance in her turbulent life?
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Rural Scotland. Caitlin (Laura Harrier), who grew up in New York before her family moved to Scotland, attends the funeral of her father, Leonard. Caitlin’s mother, Mary (Kate Dickie), delivers a graveside speech.
Mary assures her daughter that she will be fine and Caitlin, supported by visiting best friend Hannah (Bria Vinaite), returns to her third-year studies at the Glasgow School of Art.
Caitlin attends a seminar given by her lecturer, Fiona (Tamsin Egerton). Fiona concludes the talk by asking the class, “What is your voice, what is your story, what do /you/ want to say?”
Mary phones Caitlin to say that she misses her and wants her to come back, but Caitlin explains that she has too much on. Caitlin cries after hanging up, and Hannah tries to cheer her up with an evening in, drinking and dancing. In high spirits, they spy a guy spraying graffiti on the street corner opposite and chase him down the street and into a party. He sits by Caitlin on a sofa as Hannah dances before them and then pulls Caitlin to her feet to join in.
The next day, giving a lecture on abstract expressionism, Fiona tells Caitlin, Hannah and the class that women have been overlooked and written out of history in the art books. It is up to them to change things, says Fiona. “Do you want your daughters to be having the same fight?”
Caitlin meets with the guy from the party. He is Rory (Scott Miller) and he invites her on a date to go to a museum. She accepts, and they talk art as they view the pieces, agreeing that the time for it to be decorative is past – art should be what you see in the street each day. Caitlin, who is struggling to settle upon a format or theme for her end-of-year presentation, says that she wants to paint more, and duly begins work on a huge canvas. Frustrated, she throws paint all over her work, scarring it.
Mary, meanwhile, is also revealed to be an artist. Alone in her large, sterile house, she is struggling to get back to work after Leonard’s death, and likewise trashes her creation as she sculpts with clay.
Caitlin receives a message on her phone and rushes home to see her mum. She finds her passed out, drunk. Awakening her, Caitlin explains that she can’t be there for her right now, and that she needs to know that she’s alright. Mary apologises and assures her that it won’t happen again.
In another lecture, Hannah sits next to a student who introduces herself as Stacey (Lily Newmark) and tells her “I’m not, technically, in this class”. “I’m glad you’re here,” replies Hannah. They arrange to go to a vegan café after for cakes and smoothies.
Caitlin is again working on her canvas and again marring it as she loses her temper. Fiona steps into the room and assures her that it is actually quite good, and that she should continue to work in this vein.
Likewise, Mary achieves her own small breakthrough as she begins to sketch.
Stacey calls Hannah and they agree to go out to dinner despite Hannah having loose plans with Caitlin that evening. When Caitlin later texts her, Hannah texts back that she should join her at the club she’s in. Caitlin dances with Rory, while Hannah gets with Stacey. Both couples wind up back at the house, making out in Caitlin and Hannah’s respective bedrooms, though Rory is too drunk for things to progress.
The next morning, in the kitchen, Caitlin and Hannah have a vicious row in front of Stacey and Rory. It begins over who drank the almond milk but rapidly progresses to more personal resentments. “You can’t keep using the excuse that your dad died to be able to do whatever you want to people,” shouts Hannah, who receives a slap by way of reply.
Caitlin storms off to go and paint her canvas. Hannah, working on her own presentation, creates a mosaic of apology notes and records a closeup of her mouth saying, “I have the cruellest mouth”. She also leaves a conciliatory note in Caitlin’s bedroom, asking her to call her.
Caitlin returns home to see her mum and pour out her heart, admitting that she feels threatened by Stacey. Mary soothes her and assures her that Hannah will be feeling every bit as bad. This is not the time for Caitlin to be losing her best friend.
Back in Glasgow working on her canvas, Caitlin is interrupted by Hannah arriving to apologise. They hug and make up. Rory also turns up later but Caitlin tells him that she just want to do her own thing right now.
For the class’ final lecture, they are visited by Turner Prize-winning Scottish artist Catherine Hendricks (Shauna MacDonald), who talks of how her troubled life and celebrated art intersect. Later, Catherine accompanies Fiona to take a look at Caitlin’s presentation, which mixes painted canvasses with painted fabrics. Mary and Hannah have already arrived – Mary calls the work “stunning”, and Caitlin, in discussing its meaning, finally opens up to her mum about her own locked-away grief – and Catherine is similarly positive.
Caitlin tells Catherine of her father’s passing and of how she’s processed it through her work. Catherine, talking from experience, informs her that its meaning will change over the years, and then invites Caitlin to be her assistant on a project in London. Caitlin accepts but says that she does her best work in tandem with Hannah, who is also invited along. That night, Caitlin and Hannah celebrate with champagne.
Caitlin visits her dad’s grave. She tells him that she is leaving for London and that it feels like things are finally falling into place after being a mess for so long. She also tells him that she loves him. Hannah joins her at the grave, takes her hand, and together the two walk to the car. They depart the cemetery towards a hopeful future.