Rita (Julie Walters), a married hair stylist in her 20s, wants to go back to school. She begins studying with Dr. Bryant (Michael Caine), a professor using alcohol to cope with his divorce. Despite his personal problems, Dr. Bryant helps Rita realize her academic potential. In turn, her passion for learning revitalizes his love of teaching. However, when Rita's blue-collar spouse learns that his wife is more interested in education than homemaking, he becomes frustrated by her independence.