Shy,lonely 27-year old Carl is persuaded by his sex mad friends to go to a club,where he meets assured teen-ager Bailey. Initially resisting her advances he ends up in bed with her and is shocked to learn she is only fifteen. Aware that he is only a diversion for her he goes to her parents' house where she is having her sixteenth birthday party and they split. On the way home he is mugged.
Gay teenager Ben returns from his first term at Sheffield University to his wintry seaside resort home and best friend, straight Lump. They help their friend, a kindly, foul-mouthed nun, organize Christmas activities for the elderly before Lump, unemployed and likely to be thrown out of home unless he joins the Army, admits to Ben that he is jealous of his friend's success. But Ben has his problems too and the pair seek comfort in each other's company as they see in the New Year with a box of sparklers.
Make-up artist Annette shows people how to camouflage wounds and scars. Her latest client Riz has an unusual scar on his forehead and tells her he got it as a child soldier in the civil war in Sierra Leone where he lived before coming to London fifteen years ago. They become lovers and she tells him how she took up her profession as the result of a childhood incident. However a vengeful figure from Riz's past is determined to end their relationship violently.
Belfast. Stable, contemporary Northern Ireland. Two teenagers are bullied at a bus stop and decide to bunk off school. But as the ghosts of conflict emerge, their brash youthful anarchy leads them towards a darker, older world, and from that towards an unexpected closeness.
Cancer victim Jed is bitter as he is not eligible for free treatment because of the area in which he lives and he is unable to raise the money to pay for it. Then he meets fellow sufferer Mandy whose address entitles her to free medication. She suggests he move in with her and,although the relationship is rocky,they combine to register a public protest against the postcode lottery.
Ex- KGB spy Dimitri comes to London to seek out Olesya,a ballerina who defected many years earlier and is now another man's widow. Dimitri is anxious to take up again with old flame Olesya but he is pursued by spy master Sukhov,who wants him to return to Russia and puts pressure on Olesya to persuade him,claiming that her family back in Russia are threatened. Dimitri decides to do the noble thing but has he been duped? And if so by whom?
With her mother Sam suffering from a depressive mental illness, 11 year old Holly learns to fend for herself. She is befriended by Andre, a Congolese boy who saves her from bullies and delights her with his colourful paintings. He gives Holly a beautiful red dress but this is a farewell present as he is returning to Africa. However, as Sam's condition worsens and Holly gets a new home, she has Andre's paintings to cheer her up and remind her of their friendship.