Kaisa (Lena Headey) has just gotten a promotion at work in London when her estranged mother, Helen (Charlotte Rampling), calls from Aberdeen, Scotland. She implores her daughter to go to Norway and pick up her alcoholic father, Tomas (Stellan Skarsgard), and bring him to Scotland so he can enter a treatment program. When Kaisa tries to get out of this mission of mercy, Helen reveals she is dying of cancer and wants to see them both.
The father and daughter reunion is trying, to say the least. Having no fond feelings for Tomas, who worked on an offshore oil rig and was never there for her when she was growing up, Kaisa rages at him and the situation for the whole trip. They are unable to fly to Scotland after a very-drunk Tomas is barred from getting on the plane. While driving to the ferry to England, she loses it after he throws up all over the car. Unable to control her rage, Kaisa kneels down to take some cocaine but is interrupted by two reindeer who look weirdly at her crouched near the earth in the wilderness.
Hans Petter Moland directs this hard-hitting familial drama about an unsettling father and daughter reunion. Stellan Skarsgard gives a bravura performance as the constantly plastered and irritable Tomas. In one of the few moments when he is sober, he tells Kaisa that his gift of a red plastic nose to her years ago was not meant to be funny but was intended as a helmet to protect her nose. Later in the story, he gets a magic opportunity to protect the strong-willed and take-charge Kaisa.
Lena Headey gives a tour de force performance as the emotionally conflicted daughter who still can't fathom why her parents were unable to work things out and fulfill their responsibilities to take care of her. On their zigzag journey to Scotland, Kaisa and Tomas are befriended by Clive (Ian Hart), a no-nonsense truck driver who gives the term "a helping hand" substantive meaning. Aberdeen is a gripping film about the frayed and tattered ties of familial love that matter in the end even to these ferociously wayward and addicted individuals.