20-year-old Nina (Faye Marsay) moves from the Midlands to North London in the 1980s to care for Joe and Max, the two young sons of a working single mother, George (Helena Bonham Carter), the editor of a prestigious literary journal. Playful, sharply funny and fiercely bright, Nina is thrown into a world of sophisticated bohemianism, with only her no-nonsense attitude to guide her. She is unabashed but unqualified, having dropped out of school. Relying on her warmth and self-taught intelligence, Nina manages to improvise with the many intellectuals that pass through the house. With George's encouragement, and the attentions of a good-looking boy across the street, Nina's eyes are gradually opened to a future of expanded opportunities… or at the very least sixth form college.