Stevie, a Glaswegian construction worker, moves to London after recently being released from prison. He gets a job turning a derelict hospital into luxury apartments, and begins a romance with Susan, an unemployed pop singer.
Stevie (Robert Carlyle), a young Glaswegian just out of Barlinnie prison, comes down to London and gets a job on a building site -- a melting pot of itinerant labourers from all over the country -- where he has to contend with Mick the bossy ganger trying but usually failing to control his workers; three hilarious scousers, Shem, Mo and Larry (Ricky Tomlinson); and the other lads as they duck and dive through the rules and regulations of the building trade. In addition, Stevie has other problems to contend with: the wages are low, the site teems with rats, he has nowhere to sleep, and life in London isn't easy.
One day on his way to work, Stevie finds a handbag in a skip. He returns it to its owner, Susan, a no-talent singer plagued by depression and neediness. As Stevie and Susan learn to live with the ups and downs of life on the edge, Riff-Raff builds a portrait, often funny, of life as it is lived in the margins.
Ken Loach's camera follows the workers unobtrusively as they relax in the squats and pubs, revealing, in their gallows humour, the fatalism of those who feel they've been forgotten by the society they inhabit. An absolute classic, bittersweet comedy/drama from director Ken Loach whose political content is still as relevant now as it was in the Thatcher era.