"Raining Stones" is one of those films that initially looks like it is going to be painful to watch. The despair of the blue-collar English, working hard to make ends meet, the idea that religion is a part of the family, and a proud father willing to do anything for his daughter feels more like a Mike Leigh film than a Loach drama, but Loach stands up and demonstrates his ability to produce amazing cinema. It is a scene we have seen many times before, a father down on his luck with his family and life does anything (sewage, bounce, and sheep stealing) to provide a brand new dress for his daughter's first Communion. He is determined to give his daughter a memory she will always cherish, but he is also determined to prove his worth to his entire family. This is where the drama and real humanity of all Loach's characters begin to shine.
This didn't initially seem like a film worth watching, hesitantly I worried this would be one of those over dramatic family dramas that pulled everything out of you only to leave you bored, desensitized, and counting the final minutes - within the first ten minutes of Loach's film, I knew that I was wrong. To begin, our main protagonist, completely full of flaws, but boiling over with pride, captures your attention. Our patriarch, Bob (played delicately by Bruce Jones), is immediately recognizable and relatable. Loach gives him that blue-collar, everyman appeal that isn't sugar-coated or fabricated. The instances may seem episodic at times, but what happens to Bob is real. Add to this mix his devotion to the Catholic faith, and we have a powerfully well-rounded character that leads us in and out of difficult times. With Bob is his conscious, or voice of future, the unemployed Tommy creates this very sad world, but it isn't bleak. Jobs are found, dresses are ordered, and money is used - it is the destination with this film, not the journey. Bruce Jones' ability to control each scene, whether it is getting a bitter or going door to door searching for work, he is someone that we stand proudly next to. Loach has crafted a man that screams sympathy. During every moment of this film, we root for Bob, we cheer when he finds work, and each downfall we feel as well. That is a great accomplishment as both a director and an actor if each scene can bring out such emotion.
Not only is the acting Oscar worthy, but Loach's (with Jim Allen) story is outstanding. From that opening scene, he pulls you into this world that feels real, that seems plausible, that demonstrates the struggle without being vulgar or gross. It is a normal town, these are trying times, Bob wants to provide for his family, and what he goes through to accomplish this is breathtaking. As Loach introduces religion into this story, a very vital element to this film, it seems only natural that when in trouble, when you feel like you can turn to nobody, the Church is there, God is there, your local priest is there to talk you through the trouble. It isn't overbearing, it isn't preachy, it is a way of life for these characters and Loach doesn't force this down our throats. It is again, this feeling of realism that makes "Raining Stones" stand above other films of this nature. If there were a complaint about this film, it would be the sense of timing with Bob. In one moment he has no money, in another he is suddenly debt ridden. It happens rather quickly in a 90-minute film. Also, would a man with no money to his name really spend that much on beer during the week - wouldn't he save it? Or was this Loach's commentary on the blue-collar worker? Never enough money for things that count, but plenty of time for beer and religion. An odd twist...
Overall, this was an impressive film from the beginning all the way to the final moment that put this smile on your face. It was dramatic, it was grounded, and it was passionate for all the right reasons. Loach has proved himself as a director with "Raining Stones", and this is a perfect example of a "don't judge" cover. Again, this wouldn't have been a typical film for me, but what came out of the DVD player was a cinematic dinner. Everything was in place, and you were satisfied by the end. I can only recommend this film to everyone excited about a low-budget, no CGI, drama that shows humanity at its best and worst. It will make you think, make you smile, and make you understand the struggles of life.
Watch this film!
Grade: **** 1/2 out of *****