Raining Stones

Raining Stones (1993)
★★★ / ★★★★

With his daughter’s first communion coming up, Bob (Bruce Jones) feels pressure to purchase a new dress for Coleen (Gemma Phoenix). The problem is, their household is on a very tight budget. They simply cannot afford to splurge on non-necessities. Even Anne (Julie Brown), Bob’s wife, thinks that it is all right that Coleen wears a dress she already has since it is for a one-time event. Bob thinks that is exactly the point: since it is a special occasion, their little girl deserves to have a new dress, just like the other kids do on their special day.

If there is beauty in the mundane, “Raining Stones” is a good example of it. It is perceptive, smartly executed, and grounded in reality. Written by Jim Allen and directed by Ken Loach, the film tells a simple story and yet just about every moment of it is made interesting because it has a defined point of view. We follow a man who is so desperate for cash that we wonder how far he will go to get a couple of quid.

Emphasis is placed on the family’s Catholicism. If a bible, a cross, and other religious symbols are not within the frame during the interior shots, the topic of conversation is Christ. We see the inside of a church several times. We hear a part of a sermon. Bob even visits a priest for a job. Since Bob fears Christ, tension is created. No matter which avenue he traverses, he ends up facing a dead end. It appears as though there is little hope of purchasing the dress on time. “I believe in God, I pray, but it doesn’t put food on the table,” Bob says at one point. Clearly, this is a man pushed at the end of his rope.

The picture is shot with a love for the working class. Not once do we feel that the filmmakers are looking down on their subjects. On the contrary, it honors them by showing poor neighborhoods as is, both the bad and the good, and avoiding generalizations about their lifestyles. I enjoyed watching Bob interacting with his community. The camera enters various establishments and inside are ordinary people doing whatever is necessary to get by. I wondered if they were professional actors. Many of them have the details just right. For example, the posturing of someone who has worked with sewing machines for years.

Some scenes are allowed to drag. This is a risky approach but when it is done well, it works wonders because it creates a specific universe for the characters on screen. Such is the case here. The first fifteen minutes is very amusing. Bob and Tommy (Ricky Tomlinson) have stolen a sheep. They figure that they can sell its meat for a couple of pounds. However, neither of them have the stomach to kill it. They wish to whack its head but it just will not keep still. You have to wonder if they are more nervous than the animal.

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