We like to idealize compassionate people as plasterboard saints with few flaws. But, in reality, they are courageous souls who wrestle with their own furious demons. That certainly is the case with Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins) who resides in a poor Midlands town in England. This tough loner keeps a diary where he writes, "The lads and the people in this town have been living the same day their whole life."

Darcy wants to change all that. He believes the town's wayward youths, who squander their time in feuds and aimless pursuits, need something to believe in. He convinces a local businessman to fund an amateur boxing club, and soon the youths are bonded together in a greater community. Darcy looks after a drug user, a hot head with a violent temper, and a young man with a physically abusive father. Meanwhile, he also takes his aunt ballroom dancing and expresses romantic feelings for a shop girl.

Director and co-writer Shane Meadows deals sensitively with a subject usually untouched in films — the difficulties of being a compassionate person in an untrusting and violent society. He draws out a tour de force performance from Hoskins and conveys the gritty challenges faced by all who dare to make the world a better place.