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GRIME PAYS

Raining Stones, a bittersweet comedy by Great Britain's Ken Loach, is another bow to the tenacity of working-class people trying to keep their heads above water in hard times. Working in the same sort of grimy, northern city (Manchester, this time) where an earlier generation of British "kitchen sink" directors set milestones like Look Back in Anger and This Sporting Life, Loach shows us that not much has changed over the years in the overcrowded flats and identical row houses--except that drugs are now taking lives.

Bob Williams (Bruce Jones), a balding, youngish man with a furrowed brow, is willing but jobless; his pretty wife, Anne (Julie Brown), puts up a brave front, but the phone has already been disconnected and the utility bills are overdue. More stones rain on them: Their van has just been pinched, and their little daughter Coleen (Gemma Phoenix) needs a white dress and shoes for her First Communion.

The beleaguered father's desperate, comic quest to raise the money for this most important purchase may remind you as much of Vittorio DeSica as of England's Angry Young Men. Meanwhile, Loach leavens his rage with humor and unexpected sweetness. Bob rustles a sheep, then learns the local butcher can't give mutton away. He becomes a bouncer in a rave club--for about an hour. He tries door-to-door drain cleaning. Then Bob and his mate Tommy (Ricky Tomlinson) steal sod from a golf course. Through every misadventure, he tries to maintain his dignity.

Actors Jones and Tomlinson know about such things. The former is an ex-pipe-fitter and fireman who now works in a dairy; the latter, who played the frustrated "brickie" in Loach's Riff Raff, is a former building worker. Brown is a mother of three who works part-time as a singer. They bring knowledge to their roles and anchor this extraordinary film to real life.

The plot thickens with the addition of a clear-thinking priest (Tom Hickey) and a loan shark, but the loveliest moment may come when Bob tries to explain the Last Supper to his little girl. His patience and love shine through the laughter.

Raining Stones opens Friday at the Mayan for one week.

 
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