Opening shortly after World War I, the film focuses on landmark events in the lives of the working class Gibbons family after they settle in a new home in Clapham in South London. The household includes Frank, his wife Ethel, their three children — Reg, Vi and Queenie — his widowed sister Sylvia and Ethel's mother. Living next door is Bob Mitchell, who served with Frank in the army.
Frank finds employment in a travel agency. As the children grow up and the country adapts to peacetime, the family attend a number of events, such as the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley in 1924.
Reg becomes friendly with Sam, a staunch Socialist, who is attracted to Vi. Queenie is pursued by Bob's sailor son Billy, but she longs to escape the suburbs and lead a more glamorous life elsewhere.
During the General Strike of 1926, Reg is injured in a brawl in Whitechapel Road. Vi blames Sam, who had brought her brother to the area, but eventually her anger dissipates and she agrees to marry him.
In 1928, Charleston dance mania arrives in England, and an enthralled Queenie exhibits her fancy steps at the local dance hall. As all of London is swept up in the Jazz Age, news of new German chancellor Adolf Hitler begins to appear in the newspapers. Reg marries Phyllis and Billy proposes to Queenie yet again, but she confesses she is in love with a married man and soon after runs off with him, to the great distress of her mother, who says she cannot forgive her and never wants to see her again.
As time passes, Aunt Sylvia discovers spiritualism, Reg and Phyllis are killed in a car crash, and Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists, tries to stir up anti-Semitic sentiment in the city. Stanley Baldwin becomes Prime Minister, King George V dies, and Ethel's mother passes away. Billy, home on leave from the Royal Navy, and now a sub-lieutenant, announces he saw Queenie in France. Abandoned by her lover, she opened a tearoom to try to make ends meet, and she deeply regrets having left home. Billy reveals they were married two weeks previously in Plymouth Register Office and he has brought her back to London and she and Ethel are reunited when her mother forgives her for her indiscretion.
With World War II on the horizon, Queenie has a baby, which she leaves in the care of her parents when she joins her husband in Singapore. Frank and Ethel, faced with an empty nest, decide to move to a flat. A 'To Be Let' sign is seen outside the house.
This Happy Breed is a sweet and charming film. xx