Set in the late 1970s in Japan, Give it all is the story of a Japanese schoolgirl, Etsuko (15) who lives with her reticent father and hard-working mother who run a small dry cleaning shop. Also living with them is Etsuko’s grandmother, who looks after the house, and her ‘brilliant’ older sister, soon to leave the island to attend a prestigious university.
Bored with life at high school, unlucky in love and ignored by her parents, Etsuko sets her heart on taking up rowing after seeing a crew out on the water.
After a presentation from a club representative, she discovers there is no girls' team at the high school and so sets out to recruit four others so they can start one, assuring them it's only going to be until October, when they will race at the combined schools regatta.
They go through the usual novice traumas and after a summer of training, the girls seem almost ready for the annual race. But it appears that only the girls themselves know just how unprepared they really are. They are resigned to the worst.
They come last, but annoyed at being referred to as "princesses" by one of the other crews, they decide to stay together for another year to try again.
Masako Irio, a former all-Japan rowing star appears on the scene, but she is strangely reluctant to coach the team. Eventaully she relents, agrees to coach the crew and enforces a hard training regime which takes its toll on Etsuko, who has anemia and gets a bad back. Despite being told she will never row again, she fights back to compete with her crew in the finals.
There's a lot of observational humour in the movie: the boys' reactions to having girls at their club, pre-race nerves and bickering between Etsuko and Boo, the boy she has a crush on.
"Cute enough, but so dim"
"You've caught a crab.... For Real?.... Don't be stupid"
"Thanks, but no thanks, you all get on my nerves"
"Last again. When will we ever win?"
"You know, rowing is all I've got"