With his previous film, Riff-Raff, a bleakly comic exposure of the erosion of workers' rights in the building trade, Ken Loach hit on a winning formula for his brand of politically engaged social realism: politics plus gallows humour. It is a formula he employs again to equally telling effect in this scathing and minutely plotted tale of life at the sharp end of 90s dole culture, set in the economic quarantine of a Northern housing estate.
Written by the redoubtable Jim Allen, it is raw, angry and sensitively observed. Bob Williams (Jones) is a working dass Everyman, a beleaguered have-a-go-hero who jumps from one scam to another rustling sheep, cleaning drains, working as a bouncer, and, in a wittily phrased scene, nicking turf from the local Conservative Club in an effort to maintain his dignity and keep his family together.
The plot kicks into gear when Williams needs to find extra money for his daughter's communion dress and makes the mistake of going to a loan-shark. It is at this point that Loach begins to expose the links between poverty, extortion and political violence, and the horrific scene where the loan-shark and his crony burst into Williams' flat and terrorise his wife (Brown) and child is played for maximum effect and remains the core of the film.
The texture of life on the margins, its alternation between petty pleasures and desperate measures, is convincingly drawn, although Tomlinson does tend to overdo it a bit as Williams' cheerily conceited sidekick. Raining Stones may have no easy answers to any of the difficult questions it raises, but at least it knows who the guilty parties are.