Goodwill in Bad Times: Raining Stones
Pope Francis I’s recent visit to the U.S. reinforced the Catholic Church’s outreach to uplift the poor and downtrodden. Pundits have disagreed on the effects of the pontiff’s pilgrimage, particularly its effect on social policies, but most concur that he is wrestling to bend an unwieldy institution to keep its focus on the hardscrabble common people, themselves struggling to lead good lives and earn their keep in financially tight times. One needn’t be Roman Catholic or overly politicized to see such a struggle in British director Ken Loach’s humorous and heartrending – yet always humanist – Raining Stones (1993), which screened at the New York Film Festival 22 years ago this week. Out of work and doing what he can to generate income, Bob (Bruce Jones) deeply desires that his daughter (Gemma Phoenix) should have the proper, pricey dress required for her First Communion, fueling a series of slapdash schemes to earn the money. There’s much to laugh at as he undertakes sheep-rustling, turf-plundering, home-plumbing and other shady means to his end, but the laughter often catches in your throat with moments of family poignancy and sudden brutality that reinforce the dictum that life is hard and that, as he is told, “When you’re a worker, it’s raining stones seven days a week.” Joy and sorrow need the management that faith in oneself provides, and Raining Stones, a Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner on a terrific Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray double bill with Loach’s critically acclaimed Riff-Raff (1991), “is the gentlest and the funniest of Ken Loach's films about working-class life in modern Britain,” Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The film is good-hearted and the characters are easy to identify with…whose minds have not been deadened and who are naturally articulate and even poetic.” Who can’t use some goodwill amid hard times?