The film begins with Joey, a rambunctious, untrained half-thoroughbred, passing into the care of Albert?s father Ted (Pete Mullan), a homesteading farmer in rural England in 1914. Ted is a good man but something of a failure?he?s been an alcoholic since returning from the Boer War, where he won a medal for participating in what?s suggested was an atrocity. When he comes home with an expensive racehorse rather than the plow-pulling draft horse he was supposed to buy, Ted?s practical wife Rosie (Emily Watson) insists that the animal be returned. But their son Albert (Irvine) begs to keep the horse and, with hard work, manages to tame and train it. In what?s surely the most suspenseful plowing sequence ever filmed, Albert teaches Joey to pull the plow just in time for the Narracotts? farm to escape seizure by their landlord (David Thewlis), a miserly wretch whose son (Robert Emms) is Albert?s chief rival.