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Maxine Peake delivers a blistering performance as an aspiring stand-up comedian in director Adrian Shergold's gritty drama set in 1970s and 1980s working men's clubs in the north of England. As a child (Macy Shackleton), the eponymous heroine suffers terribly at the hands of her abusive father (Stephen Graham) and she seeks refuge in the alleyways of Rotherham. History is destined to repeat itself when, as a young woman (now played by Peake), she falls in love with Bob (Tony Pitts). He exerts complete control over her and isn't afraid to use his fists when she dares to strike out on her own. During a visit to a working men's club, the heroine witnesses a poorly received set from veteran comedian Lenny (Alun Armstrong) and she is excited by the prospect of taking to the stage herself. Adopting the stage name Funny Cow, the battered wife taps into her troubled past to turn her tears into laughter and prove that women can be just as funny as men. Kind-hearted bookshop owner Angus (Paddy Considine) shows her the affection she has always craved but jealous husband Bob won't let his terrified wife go without a bruising fight.