Mike Leigh began his career as one of Britain's most interesting directors with this realistic drama about a woman looking for respite from an unsatisfying life. Sylvia (Anne Raitt) is a slightly overweight woman who works as a secretary and hasn't had much luck in romance.
She shares her home with her retarded sister, whom she looks after, and has been dating Peter (Eric Allen), a schoolteacher whom she hopes will ask her to marry him. However, one evening they have a date that doesn't go especially well, and Sylvia discovers that Peter is impotent; he breaks up with her shortly afterward.
The only other interesting relationship in her life is with Norman (Mike Bradwell), a hippie who rents out Sylvia's garage as a workspace for his underground newspaper and plays songs on his guitar for her sister.
Bleak Moments was adapted from a play written by Leigh; as is his habit, the story was created in collaboration with the actors who originated the roles.