England, the summer of '66 and the country is about to be consumed by World Cup Fever. For 12-year-old Bernie (GREGG SULKIN), the biggest day of his life is looming, the day he becomes a man - his Bar Mitzvah. However Bernie's North London family seems a little distracted. His father Manny (EDDIE MARSAN) is concerned about the giant supermarket opening opposite his grocery shop, a business he shares with his more charismatic younger brother, Jimmy (PETER SERAFINOWICZ) -- and it's making Manny's bizarre obsessive compulsive disorder even worse than usual. Between worrying about Manny and Bernie's older brother Alvie (BEN NEWTON), mother Esther (HELENA BONHAM CARTER) barely has time to notice her better behaved younger son, and the only attention Bernie ever gets from Alvie is a punch for stepping onto the wrong side of their shared bedroom. Bernie believes his Bar Mitzvah is about to change all this. He'll no longer be the kid everyone ignores, and he envisions and begins to plan the perfect ceremony and reception, where everyone assembled will acknowledge his new status as a man. Unfortunately for Bernie, things don't quite go according to plan.
First, Manny's business fails, and suddenly the lavish hotel party that Bernie had been promised is replaced with a tiny affair in his parent's front room. Worse than that though, the World Cup Final is scheduled for the same day as his Bar Mitzvah. Despite Bernie's pleas, Manny and Esther won't hear of moving the date, as "England will never get through to the final." Bernie senses it's not wise to push the issue with his increasingly neurotic parents, but he is panic-stricken. His only solace comes from his relationships with asthma specialist, Dr. Barrie (STEPHEN REA), and his blind Hebrew instructor, Rabbi Linov (RICHARD KATZ), who give Bernie life lessons reminding him what it really means to become a man.
Over the next few weeks, Bernie spends his spare time watching the World Cup like a hawk as England wins through the qualifying rounds, and ultimately earns a spot in the final against West Germany. Bernie's worst nightmare has come true. Back at home things reach
crisis point when the house catches fire and Manny's life savings go up in smoke. Manny is so depressed he is prepared to walk out on his family. It's only when Jimmy falls off a ladder and injures himself and impresses upon Manny his familial responsibilities that he finally pulls
The big day finally arrives and an excited hum spreads across the country - not so for Bernie. As he predicted, only a handful of relatives turn up to his Bar Mitzvah, and even they can't hide their desperation to get back home to watch the match. Amidst the chaos and disappointment, Bernie decides enough is enough. He runs to the sanctuary of Dr. Barrie's house only to discover that Dr. Barrie's life isn't so perfect either. Meanwhile, Manny and Esther discover their son's meticulously laid plans for the biggest Bar Mitzvah ever, and