During the late 1970s, British post-punk music was hot. In Manchester, England, a group of young men formed a group called Warsaw and recorded their first demo. They soon changed their name to Joy Division, and headlined their lead singer and lyricist, Ian Curtis. The biopic Control is based on the book Touching From a Distance, by Deborah Curtis (Ian's wife), and is about this vocalist's troubled life and what led to his suicide at the age of 23, the day before the group's first U.S. tour.
Ian Curtis (Sam Riley, front man and songwriter with the band 10,000 Things) had aspirations to do well in the music world. He admired David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Doors, and MC5, but did not play an instrument. His talent was writing poetry and lyrics. Fortunately, he joined Warsaw as their lead singer and was determined to make it big in the business.
Eventually they cut a demo and changed their name to Joy Division due to a name clash with another band. They became a popular band in their small community. While making the clubs, Ian took a local girl, Deborah Woodruff (Samantha Morton), on a date to see David Bowie, and a romance developed. Three years later, Ian married Debbie. They set up house and he managed to hold down a job at the local unemployment office, but he still wanted to succeed with his music.
His style of music influenced U2, Kurt Cobain, Interpol, and many others. As the group gained momentum, they earned a slot on TV. This gave the band a new sense of purpose.
Times were hard for Ian, trying to make ends meet at work at the unemployment office and playing the gigs. While at work he witnessed a girl having an epileptic seizure. This inspired him to write his song "She's Lost Control", which was an omen for him. During a concert in London, he suffered a seizure. The doctor diagnosed him with epilepsy and the condition became a burden to his lifestyle.
In addition to his illness, Ian became a father when Debbie gave birth to a daughter. Perhaps he and Debbie were too young for marriage. As the group became more popular, the female groupies gathered around them. At an interview, Ian met a Belgium girl named Annik Honore (Alexandra Maria Lara) and an intense love affair began.