This warm-hearted drama centres around the Cromptons, a large working-class family who live together in Bolton.
Rafe Crompton (James Mason) is the head of the house, god-fearing and old-fashioned with a set of rules that everyone must abide by.
Everyone pays money for their keep, the family sit down to meals together on time etc, but his authority is starting to be challenged by his children, most of whom are practically adults and from another generation entirely.
Harold (Rodney Bewes) would like to be treated with more respect while Florence (Hannah Gordon) finds Rafe disapproving of the notion that she might become married to her boyfriend. When his other daughter Hilda (Susan George) suddenly decides she doesn’t want herrings for tea one evening and feels entitled – as she pays money into the family kitty now – to choose what she wants to eat, Rafe declares that the herrings will be brought out every time they have dinner from now on until she eats them.
A battle of wills between father and daughter ensues and tensions begin to rise in the house with Daisy Crompton (Diana Coupland) caught somewhere in the middle between her husband and children.
James Mason is wonderful as Rafe Crompton, who is authoritarian and slightly tyrannical at times but also kind and sometimes amusing.
The film is quite moving in the way that it depicts Rafe as increasingly out of touch with the modern world (1970 in this case) but essentially a proud, decent man who is trying to make sure his children never have to go through the hardships he did.
Susan George (who looks like a young supermodel or pop star and doesn’t quite fit the name Hilda) is also quite good when she digs her heels in and stands up to Rafe.
Rafe might be a trifle stern and annoying but we see that he probably hasn’t done a bad job at all whenever Hilda visits the Duckworths next door who are slobbish and rude to each other – although they do have Adrienne Posta as a daughter!
Hannah Gordon also plays an important role as the older daughter Florence. Florence is more loyal to her father than the others but is also becoming closer to her boyfriend Arthur (Keith Buckley) and has her own big decisions to make about the future.
The younger son Wilfred, a bit of a scamp, is played by Len Jones who was a famous child actor in this era and best known as the voice of Joe 90. Other famous faces who make (brief) appearances in the film are Bernard Bresslaw and Arthur Lowe.
The film was partly shot on location in Bolton which gives it an authentic feel. It has that late sixties/early seventies atmosphere of a place that is changing all the time with new houses going up.
The herring incident is used for comic purposes when it is brought out at each mealtime (to military strains) and the defiant Hilda ignores it with a mildly amused air.
The solution to the herring problem is provided by young Wilfred and is also funny too.