Abandoned as a baby, Alfredo Russo is haunted by the mystery of his birth. He doesn't know who he is and those who do know will never tell for fear of their lives. Married now he seeks a new life in England only to be plunged into the carnage of the First World War. Here the spotlight falls on his son Gianni who after the trauma of the war returns to Naples to seek the truth of his father's birth.
It's tough for coalminers in 1956, and they demand respect from their families. Polly Carpenter copes, but when the mine threatens closure, her life turns upside down. She re-evaluates her marriage, especially when her daughter Kathryn faces danger after being deserted by her drunken father. Despite the narrow culture of the area, hope remains for Kathryn and she looks forward to a bright future.