The main couple, childlike Candice Marie (Alison Steadman) and eccentric-obsessive Keith (Roger Sloman), arrive at a campsite in Dorset and pitch their tent in a quiet spot suitable for appreciating nature's wonders while keeping other human beings safely at arm's length. The couple take day trips to Corfe Castle, a quarry and a local farm to purchase some untreated milk. Their usual routine (which includes performing their own guitar-banjo compositions, preparing healthy vegetarian dinners and following the Country Code) is rudely interrupted by Ray (Anthony O'Donnell), a lone student and trainee PE teacher who camps down nearby and switches on his radio: this is treated by the couple as an unforgivable crime, and they force Ray to turn it off. Later, on the way home after a trip to Stair Hole, it begins to rain and the couple notice a figure (which turns out to be Ray) walking along the road and give him a lift home.
Their relationship becomes increasingly tense and tempers flare when Keith notices Candice Marie exhibiting an unseemly interest in Ray's well-being – "she crawls into his tent to show him stones she has collected on the beach; Keith explodes with jealous rage after spying on them from behind the bushes with his binoculars, like a character in a farce." Later, Ray is asked to take a photograph of the couple but is patronised by Keith and Candice Marie and is forced to participate in a song at Keith's behest. As soon as some kind of order seems to have been restored, Brummie couple Finger and Honky arrive on their motorbike, equipped with an army tent, a football and a fondness for late-night drinking. Befriending Ray, who has more in common with their personalities than Keith and Candice Marie, they all get quite drunk at the local pub. After arriving back at the campsite and continuing to make a large amount of noise, Honky and Finger raise the ire of Keith who shouts at them to be quiet. Finally, Keith and Candice Marie have an intense argument with Finger and Honky over Finger's plans to light a fire to cook some sausages. Keith highly objects to this, as it contravenes the rules of the site, and resorts to violence to stop it, chasing Finger around the campsite with a giant stick. Eventually running out of energy, Keith bursts into tears and runs off into the woods. When he returns some time later, Keith decides that he and Candice Marie will leave the campsite but is unable to get a refund from Miss Beale, the site's owner.
Finally finding peace, Keith and Candice Marie pitch their tent in the field of a nearby farm. Whilst Keith looks for a suitable spot to go to the toilet, Candice Marie sings along to another composition of hers on guitar and the film ends.
In keeping with Leigh's other films, Nuts in May serves as a commentary on many of the daily issues faced by many people, in this case with particular emphasis on neighbour relations. Keith may have the full weight of the law on his side when he reprimands the other campers for their thoughtless, and sometimes reckless, behaviour, but he lacks the compassion, communication skills and understanding of human nature required to have them willingly acknowledge their mistakes. Also, while Keith becomes irritated with almost every human contact, others seem to be able to deal with others without these problems. 'Better than being at home, innit', utters Finger to Honky after one particularly fierce bust up that leaves Keith incandescent. This particularly resonates since Finger, a plasterer, has already confessed to Ray that, because of the shortage of new housing, there is little work available. The couple find peace only when they pitch their tent in a farmer's field, away from other people after Keith, snobbishly, has told the others to 'get back to your tenements'.
It is also interesting to note the parent-child style relationship between Keith and Candice Marie, who appear not to have any form of sexual relationship at all. Candice Marie – who works in a toy shop – takes on the role of the innocent child; one who needs looking after and who is constantly confused and intrigued by her surroundings. (She composes little poems and songs and goes to bed with a fluffy blue cat-shaped hot water bottle called Prudence.) Likewise, Keith assumes a paternal role, planning out their trip with almost militaristic precision, also keeping himself physically fit by following the Royal Canadian Airforce exercise system.Alison Steadman as Candice Marie
Roger Sloman as Keith
Anthony O'Donnell as Ray
Sheila Kelley as Honky
Stephen Bill as Finger
Richenda Carey as Miss Beale
Eric Allan as Quarryman
Sally Watts as Farm-Girl
Matthew Guinness as Farmer
Richard Ireson as Policeman
Sheila Kelley and Stephen Bill were a couple in real life at the time.
The film is set, and was filmed in its entirety, in the geologically and historically rich Isle of Purbeck area of Dorset in South West England. The characters visit a number of significant points of interest including Corfe Castle, Stair Hole, Kimmeridge, Lulworth Cove and the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. The location was chosen at the suggestion of the producer David Rose, who came from Purbeck: "I told him about the quarries in the district and asked him to film everything out of doors, under the skies; he reneged only slightly on this condition – there is one sequence of about one minute twenty seconds, in the Greyhound pub near Corfe Castle, and one short scene in a toilet. Apart from that, the only interiors are those of some very small tents." The campsite used for filming was Corfe Castle Campsite, just outside Corfe Castle, which is still used as a campsite today. The quarry visited is Keats Quarry in Acton.
Nuts in May was ranked 49th in the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. Nuts in May is highly regarded and often quoted, and as such it could be said to have achieved cult status. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer chose the film to end At Home with Vic and Bob (1993), which was an evening of programmes scheduled by the duo.