When was the last time that you saw a film which featured a builder as the hero? No. I myself can’t remember either. But Ken Loach’s “Riff-Raff” is probably the work that jumps to mind immediately. Set in and around a building site in Sheffield, the film excellently portrays in a gritty and honest way the toils and tribulations of a group of working-class men on a site.
It is refreshing to see attention being given to workers in such a film, as well as the fact that many of the workers portrayed were and probably still are themselves on-site workers. This gives the film even greater accuracy, and helps one to think that stars Robert Carlyle and Ricky Tomlinson can also lift their weight worth and get stuck in with the kind of manual labour that perhaps a different set of actors (such as Eddie Redmayne or Ben Affleck) would pull a face and run away from as fast as they could. Indeed, it is a shame that films like “Riff-Raff” are made less and less these days, although Ken Loach remains one of the most talented and prolific portrayers of working-class life on the big screen.
The film also has numerous parallels and bears a more than passing resemblance to the great novel “The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists,” a book which Tomlinson apparently cherishes. The building and construction industry is important to the film as well as it establishes the health and safety concerns as well as the protection of workers’ pay that trade unions help to implement as much as they can. All in all, it is hoped that the next few years will see greater amounts of portrayals of workers in the building design and construction industry so that the public can see the fantastic work that they do. The likelihood of this happening however is not very likely.