Young Scot Steve comes out of prison and heads for London where he gets a job as a brickie and hooks up with Susan after returning a handbag he finds in a skip.
Made fore the trusty film on four slot and given a very limited theatrical airing, Ken Loach's Riff-Raff was headed straight for its TV transmission date until picking up the International Critics' Award at Cannes and prompting the distributors to re-release it to the cinemas.
Written by Bill Jesse a former brickie who died just before the film's completion this is a loosely anecdotal account of the scams, arguments, shoddy practices, good humour and general downtroddenness of a group of labourers involved in converting an old hospital into expensive flats.
The central character (Carlyle) is a young Scot, fresh out of prison and working under an assumed name, and the film switches between the site and his relationship with a no-hope singer (McCourt) who predictably turns to heroin.
There is, of course, always a political Ken Loach's Riff-Raff: "At its best when simply and effectively stringing stories together". agenda in a Loach film, but at least this one carefully avoids stressing the situation of its hero, instead letting the audience draw its own conclusions. While by no means entirely unsuccessful as a movie, Riff-Raff is still basically a TV film stranded on the big screen. And .
While at its best when simply and effectively stringing stories together, this does ultimately fall a little bit flat towards the end in its melodramatic contrivances to bring about some sort of climax