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Riff-Raff (1991)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

London, the early 1990s. Stevie, recently arrived from Glasgow and sleeping rough, teams up with a group of builders - Liverpudlians Larry, Mo and Shem, West Indians Faiman and Desmonde, Bristolian Wilf - who are renovating an old building. Site foreman Gus lectures them about on-site behaviour and financial matters, emphasising that they are all self-employed.

In the canteen, Stevie is asked if he has anywhere to stay, and accompanies Larry, Mo and Shem to a squat. Larry reconnects the utilities, removing the meters in the process.

Work begins on the site. A car parked by the skip is damaged. One of the men is disciplined for playing cards on the job. A rat is found in the kitchen. Stevie finds a discarded bag and appropriates it.

Stevie returns to the squat and opens the bag, which contain, amongst other things, the address of one Susan Myers. He pays her a visit and, after she accepts that he isn't her landlord, she tells him that she's a singer. She reads his horoscope - he's a lively and challenging spirit. He tells her that he's a clothing merchandiser with ambitions to open his own shop.

Susan performs in a pub, watched by Stevie and the rest of the builders. After she is booed off the stage, Larry grabs the microphone and berates the crowd, insisting that she returns for another song. This time, the crowd sings along. Stevie and Susan return to his flat and make love.

Susan moves into Stevie's flat. Larry and the lads help her with her furniture. When Susan and Stevie are alone, she tells him that a psychic's predictions about her life are being fulfilled, and reveals a history of depression and suicide attempts.

Stevie meets a man in the pub and sells him a pneumatic drill, denying that it's been stolen. Returning to the building site, he is asked if he's seen it.

Susan sings at an audition, watched by Stevie from the gods. He observes the director and casting director laughing at her performance, descends and orders them to applaud. Afterwards, Susan is furious with him, though mellows so much later on that she proposes marriage - but he refuses.

On the building site, a near-accident reveals that the scaffolding is not safe. Larry is caught short and refuses to use the site toilet. He sneaks into the show flat, and takes advantage of the fully-working bath, but is interrupted by an estate agent with three female Muslim clients. Unabashed, he laughs about it with the other builders before launching into a tirade about health and safety. He makes a formal complaint to site management and is assured that everything will be sorted out within days. Instead, he is sacked.

Stevie returns to the flat to find that Susan has prepared a birthday celebration for him. The next morning, he hears a radio DJ announcing a helpline message trying to track down a Patrick Logan of Glasgow. He rushes out of the flat to a phone box, hears bad news and insists on returning home. Susan is distraught and pleads with him not to go. He hitch-hikes back to Glasgow.

In Drumchapel. Stevie sits in one of the cars in the funeral procession. After the cremation, Stevie returns to find Susan injecting herself with heroin, and orders her out. He later tells her about his brother-in-law, a former drugs counsellor, and his experience with one particularly far-gone couple. She says that he needs to have faith in her. He tells her that the couple was his brother and his wife. When he returns to the flat, he finds that Susan has moved out.

When Gus is arguing with the other workers, Shem borrows his mobile phone and rings his mother. A furious Gus grabs it back off him and fires him on the spot. Shem headbutts him and the police are called. Shortly afterwards, Desmonde falls off the roof when the scaffolding gives way. He is rushed to hospital.

Stevie and Mo return to the site after dark and set fire to it. When the security guard attempts to phone for help, he is attacked by his own dog. The building explodes as Stevie and Mo watch.