Raining Stones was Ken Loach's 1993 follow-up to his 1991 film Riff-Raff, and portrays similar themes, exploring a working man's struggle to survive, both economically and morally, against a backdrop of economic recession and high unemployment - a challenge which is, of course, as relevant today in 2012 as it was in the early 1990s. For me, Raining Stones is the more successful of the two films in the way it treats its protagonist's story both with greater intimacy and intensity than the earlier film.
The other elements that are common to both Raining Stones and Riff-Raff are that both films feature an unusually high comic content (even for a Ken Loach film - which, of course, normally would include at least a handful of hilarious scenes) and, perhaps not coincidentally, both contain consummate performances from the great comic actor Ricky Tomlinson. As in Riff-Raff, Tomlinson plays a support role to Loach's central character, who, in Raining Stones, is played by Bruce Jones (Coronation Street's own Les Battersby). Bob (Jones) and Tommy (Tomlinson) are mates who, in a desperate attempt to provide for their families, will try their hand at any scam going, including 'sheep rustling' - their attempts at which are the focus of the film's hilarious opening sequence.
Loach's film compellingly depicts many of his trademark plot devices and themes, namely a central character whose world falls apart following a random fateful event, a family whose aspirations (in this case, the young daughter's desire for a successful first communion) are inextricably linked to the father's bad luck, and a set of unscrupulous authority figures (in this case, debt collectors) only too willing to exploit the situation. Once again, Loach has chosen a relatively unknown cast (Jones and Tomlinson aside) that deliver handsomely, providing deceptively naturalistic acting performances, at times with a near-documentary feel. Particular mention should be made of Jonathan James who plays the frighteningly convincing debt collector Tansey, and Tom Hickey who is superb in his playing of the refreshingly pragmatic priest Father Barry. Incidentally, Hickey played a similar role in Jim Sheridan's 1989 Oscar-winning film, My Left Foot.
As for the Riff-Raff soundtrack, Loach commissioned Police drummer Stewart Copeland, who provides an interesting, jazz-inflected score for this later film.
In conclusion then, Raining Stones is, for me, another great example of the way Loach is, in his own unique way, able to mix tragedy and humour to brilliant cinematic effect. I will always call to mind a number of hilarious scenes from the film, none more so than that where Ricky Tomlinson moons under the dazzling beam of a police helicopter's searchlight - magical.