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 CarterBrad Gorton as John DixonCharlotte Brittain as LindaJacquetta May as Steven's MotherDavid Lumsden as Steven's FatherRichard Hawley as English TeacherMartin Milman as HeadmasterStacy Hart as JessicaKate McEnery as WendyPatrick Nielsen as MarkTim Harris as KevinJames D. White as DaveJames Perkins as Young SteveNicholas Hunter as Young MarkSteven Mason as Cruising ManMorgan Jones as Linda's BrotherIan Brimble as John's FatherJudy Buxton as John's MotherDavid Elliot as GlenCharlotte Hanson as Glen's WifeLouise J. Taylor as Christina LindmannSteven Elder as Bob the Driving InstructorLeonie Thomas as Aunt at WeddingDavid Paul West as BridegroomAndy 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."