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April 13, 2015

Movie Review: Riff Raff (1991) and Raining Stones (1993) (Twilight Time)

Honestly, fellas, I don’t know how well I can review these two movies. For one, they aren’t typically what I enjoy watching. Sure, a human interest/drama/comedy film can be interesting or at least, entertaining (like Philomena or Lizzie Borden Took an Axe). But for another reason, I couldn’t understand 98% of what these fookers were going on about in the films. The heavy cockney British accents DO NOT make for easy listening. So I gleaned what I could from every 100th word I caught and the accompanying acting. Here goes nothing.

Riff Raff and Raining Stones are two films from Ken Loach. Apparently, he’s well known for creating movies about the poor/working class and their struggles with every day life, particularly during political change.

Riff  Raff focuses on Stevie (a very young Robert Carlysle whose Scottish brogue is near impossible to translate), a drifter who finds work at a construction site. He squats in a nearby empty apartment, with the help of a few of his coworkers. The construction site has appalling safety conditions: read none at all. Anyone who brings that up is immediately sacked. 

Stevie meets Susan, a lacking in talent singer but they hit it off. After moving in with him, he learns she’s a druggie. Maybe something you could have learned if you knew each other AT ALL before moving in together. After that relationship falls apart, one of Stevie’s coworkers dies on site. The obvious reaction to that is for Stevie and his buddy to burn the location down.


Raining Stones is about Bob, a poor guy with a wife and daughter to clothe and feed. And wouldn’t you know it? His daughter has her first communion coming up and she just has to have a brand new expensive dress for the occasion. He doesn’t have a steady job so he’ll do whatever is necessary to earn that money. He steals local sheep to sell at market or the local bar -whatever; goes door to door clearing drains; works security at a local club; landscaping (read: stealing sod from a local sports club).

Eventually we find out Bob’s borrowed money from a loan shark and when the collection date comes due, Bob’s family is threatened. That’s the last straw for a desperate Bob and he goes after the shark, at very very very high risk to his family and his own life. But there’s only so much one man can take. 

Of the two movies, I only had two emotional reactions during Raining Stones. First when the loan shark came and threatened Bob’s family. Bob is an idiot. I didn’t feel sorry for him and I couldn’t understand him either, despite his obvious religious and fatherly devotion. I did feel terrible for his wife and daughter being subjected to that thug. If Bob just let go of his pride...but then there wouldn’t have been a movie, would there? The second was when another character, Tommy, ended up taking money from his daughter because he couldn’t find work. He silently weeps alone, his strong father figure image shattered in a moment of weakness.

In Riff Raff, rats are referenced or in actual scenes as a metaphor, I’m sure, for the working class. However, at one point, one of the workers stomps on a hairless baby rat. And I’m pretty fucking sure it wasn’t special f/x. Ken Loach actually had one of the actors squash a baby rat to make a point. I almost turned off the movie because I thought I was going to throw up.

Both films are a giant lift ups for the little guy, the one who can’t even make ends meet in a society that considers disposable people acceptable, or at least invisible. Loach kind of punches us in the face with the whole “the hardworking man is crying out for justice” meme but I think that’s his thing.

If there’s anyone else out there that’s watched Loach’s films, or other films like this, you might be better judges of their quality and entertainment. But since I couldn’t understand what the actors were saying, it makes it difficult for me to rate them. So I’ll have to give these a couple of shrugs and suggest you watch them for yourselves.

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