Borstal Boy is a drama inspired by the experiences of militant Irish poet Brendan Behan. The film opens in 1940's Ireland with 16-year-old Brendan (Shawn Hatosy) going on a bombing mission for the Irish Republican Army. British authorities thwart his plans, however, when they apprehend him as he tries to enter Liverpool with explosives. Brendan is too young for a regular prison, so they send him to Borstal, a youth reformatory in East Anglia, England. The warden, Joyce (Michael York), is supportive of all the boys in his care, most of who are British. Perceiving these English inmates as his enemies, Brendan is overwhelmed, but soon he finds friendship in gay sailor Charlie Milwall (Danny Dyer) and romance with the warden's daughter, Liz (Eva Birthistle). He reads the works of Oscar Wilde, and soon these new ideas and new relationships are changing his consciousness. As he abandons his rigid belief system, hints of a future great writer emerge.