The Angel’s Share

26 Oct

 

Director: Ken Loach

Writer: Paul Laverty (screenplay)

Stars: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw and Gary Maitland

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 101 minutes

 

 

Ken Loach and Paul Laverty is an established film-making pair. Together they have made some excellent films such as My Name is Joe (1998) and Sweet Sixteen (2002). Their latest collaboration remains rooted in the day-to-day lives of the Scottish working class, but is lighter than previous films. The setting is Glasgow with 4 friends on the edges of society and brought together by their anti-social behaviour. Robbie (Paul Brannigan), Rhino (William Ruane), Albert (Gary Maitland) and Mo (Jasmin Riggins) are put into the community payback scheme in lieu of custodial sentences with Robbie, the film’s central character, given one last chance at staying out of jail.

The story of Robbie drives this film along and is typically dealt with honestly and compassionately by the director. Loach has a keen and sincere eye for people on the margins of society and Robbie is a classic Loach (and Laverty) character. In the first half of the film we see Robbie’s darker side, his anger, frustration and his predisposition for violence. There is one moving scene in which he has to sit and listen to one of his victim’s account of the assault. Through that and beyond Robbie is supported by his partner Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) and the birth of their first child underlines just how quickly Robbie has to turn things around.

In the second half of the film, generally lighter, funnier and quicker paced, the 4 friends led by Robbie attempt to make some quick money. Their scheme is centred on whisky and the auction of a very rare cask of the stuff. Robbie is introduced to whisky by his community liaison officer Harry (nicely played by John Henshaw) and it is clear that he has some skill in appreciating the complex liquor. Robbie becomes fascinated by the whisky making process and convinces his peers of a plan to put his new found knowledge to good, if not exactly legal, use.

The Angel’s Share, which in whisky terms is the small amount lost from a cask to evaporation, is a decent hard-working film. It’s slightly old-fashioned at times and the mixture of social realism and comedy are at odds now and then, but it is heartfelt and eminently watchable. Brannigan in the lead role is very good and the others show up well too. There is one dodgy montage set to that famous Proclaimers song, but otherwise its heart is in the right place and the story of Robbie’s struggle to turn his life around rings true enough.

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