Robbie’s causing problems. He hasn’t settled into his new school. He’s bunking off and hanging out with the wrong sort. He’s staying up late at night streaming live American baseball games on his laptop.
The last thing he wants to do is spend any time with his dysfunctional, broken-down family. What with his sister, Angie, the wannabe pop star with a string of epic fails in the boyfriend department; his estranged dad, Matt, the loser who breezes in every now and then with his latest attempt to buy Robbie’s affection; and his mum, Eve, always telling him off, shouting ‘look at the time, look at the time’ and complaining that he spends too long on his iPad.
And he hates school. Every morning he tells Eve he’s not well, he can’t go, but she ignores his pleas and makes him get up.
One morning, from downstairs we hear Robbie’s bathroom noises as Eve makes him toast and packs his lunch. We hear Robbie taking a pee, running water, flushing the toilet — the whole works. And all the while Robbie sings along to his iPhone — blissfully unaware that everyone can hear him. His voice is beautiful and for a moment Eve is captivated. Robbie hustles down the stairs, tucking his shirt in. He grabs a slice of toast from Eve as he grabs his school blazer, runs to the door and stomps into his shoes. All the while Eve is watching him as if she’s never seen him before. Robbie notices her staring at him: “What? —“
Eve snaps out of her reverie: “Oh, nothing…”
A few days later there’s a message from school — Eve is summoned to the Head’s office. The headmistress appears and asks them into her study, where another teacher awaits: Mr Adam Grey, Robbie’s class teacher and, as it happens, head of music. They ask Robbie to wait outside.
Adam tells Eve that Robbie is at a crossroads. He could either do well or he could ‘fall off the radar’. He says that every child needs a passion, but he hasn’t yet discovered Robbie’s. He asks Eve to help him find it. Eve is defensive and tells Adam and the headmistress to mind their own business.
Angie, already in trouble with Eve for going out too much, is grounded after an argument. Angie takes money from Eve’s purse and goes out on a date. When Eve discovers the money is missing she blames Angie, but Robbie says he took it. Angie is amazed, and afterwards asks Robbie why he did it.
“I dunno — I just thought, one more ruck between you two and that’d be it. No more family. Dad gone already, you’d be off next… I didn’t want that.”
Angie is embarrassed and touched. She teases him: “Oh so you love your big sis after all!”
The next morning Robbie tries his usual trick of saying he’s unwell. Eve nags him to get up, but this time he doesn’t. Eve goes to his bedside. She cannot wake him. She calls for an ambulance.
At the hospital the Doctor tells eve that Robbie needs tests. He is eventually diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and Eve is told that he will have to go on a very aggressive course of treatment. The drugs available on the NHS are only moderately effective. There is a more powerful drug available, but it is very expensive — way beyond Eve’s means.
Angie suggests they start a ”JustDonate.com” charity fund-raising page to try to raise money for the medicine that Robbie needs. Robbie’s life is given a new purpose and Angie, with a little help from Robbie, starts writing songs for them to sing. They start their own YouTube channel and, as word spreads, they become local celebrities.
And so this broken down family starts a journey of discovery and healing — a journey that takes a startling turn when Robbie’s fame spreads far beyond his home town, and way beyond his wildest dreams.