When homosexuality was still an absolute taboo in England, sensitive rural town model student Steven Carter hides his gay feelings, except with his neighbour, a girl named Linda. Suddenly his desperate search for partners in male public lavatories leads to a blind date with golden boy John Dixon, bound for an Oxbridge career. Steven finds the courage to approach John by volunteering for the school paper as sports photographer. A wonderful affair follows, but John is terrified of losing his social status. As the boys' love blossoms, so grows despair about secrecy or outing consequences.
Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone) is a sixteen-year-old middle-class schoolboy: intelligent and good-looking, but unathletic and introverted. Bullied at school, misunderstood at home, his only confidant is his neighbor and best friend, Linda (Charlotte Brittain). Keeping his sexuality hidden from everyone else, he cruises in public toilets. He is surprised to find the school jock, John Dixon (Brad Gorton) also cruising, but John denies that he is gay.
At a school dance, Steven gains a friend after he comforts Jessica (Stacy Hart), after an argument with a boyfriend, who is also his bully, Kevin (Tim Harris). When he returns home, John follows him and confides about his own sexuality. They decide to start a relationship.
Word around the school spreads about someone being gay in the school, and John fears that Steven has been telling people. In order to maintain his status in the school, John beats up Steven in front of his friends. Steven announces in front of assembly that he is gay, and looks to John for support, but he does not. In the end, John apologizes for beating him up and says he loves him, but as he is too afraid to come out, Steven breaks up with him, wishing him happiness.Ben Silverstone as Steven Carter
Brad Gorton as John Dixon
Charlotte Brittain as Linda
Jacquetta May as Steven's Mother
David Lumsden as Steven's Father
Richard Hawley as English Teacher
Martin Milman as Headmaster
Stacy Hart as Jessica
Kate McEnery as Wendy
Patrick Nielsen as Mark
Tim Harris as Kevin
James D. White as Dave
James Perkins as Young Steve
Nicholas Hunter as Young Mark
Steven Mason as Cruising Man
Morgan Jones as Linda's Brother
Ian Brimble as John's Father
Judy Buxton as John's Mother
David Elliot as Glen
Charlotte Hanson as Glen's Wife
Louise J. Taylor as Christina Lindmann
Steven Elder as Bob the Driving Instructor
Leonie Thomas as Aunt at Wedding
David Paul West as Bridegroom
Andy Rashleigh as Policeman
The film ranked number 34 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
The film was well received by many critics, and subsequently nominated for eight awards, and won six, including the British Independent Film Award 1998.
In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Paula Nechak praised the film for allowing the characters to be themselves rather than change to fit in, and praises the treatment of the 'jock' character John as being just as bound by the school popularity game as Steven.
Roger Ebert commented "Certainly this film has deeper values than the mainstream teenage comedies that retail aggressive materialism, soft-core sex and shallow ideas about "popularity." Steven Holden from The New York Times wrote "The movie captures the excruciating paranoia of a situation in which there’s nowhere the lovers can be alone except in each other’s homes on the rare occasions their parents are out."
In the Daily Record, Siobhan Synnot criticised the film as being like a "preachy episode of Grange Hill with cardboard cut-out characters" and also criticised the John character for being unbelievable, describing him as "simply a bland fantasy hunk. It's hard to see how this dim bulb is bright enough for Oxford, because all the smart lines go to his smart-alec boyfriend."