Arthur Dodsworth has recently retired. He lives alone except for his budgie and memories of his late wife Winnie. One afternoon his nap is interrupted by the doorbell; his former secretary, Peggy Prothero, has come to visit. A brash, charmless woman who seems to take no pleasure in anything but putting people down, Miss Prothero wants to fill her old boss in on all the changes that have taken place at work since he left. Dodsworth isn't very curious, and as the visit wears on it puts a little strain on his politeness and patience. Miss Prothero doesn't enjoy it much either, but lingers on as there's a bombshell she wants to drop. The docketing system Dodsworth introduced thirty years earlier, which revolutionised the firm, has been scrapped by her adored new boss Mr Skinner. The crowning achievement of Dodsworth's career has just become obsolete, and she wants to tell him all about it.
The lawyer is visiting a prison to meet with a violent criminal who has been condemned to death. During the visit, things turn bad, there is a riot where prisoners escape and the criminal escapes taking a lawyer hostage.
A country family of five takes in cousin Julia, whose parents recently perished in a car crash. Julia extends her influence over the family and those around them, fooling all except for Rachel, the teenaged girl who knows her cousin is up to no good.