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The Angels' Share

2012 | 101 min | Not rated | 1.85:1

The Angels' Share


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Theatrical release date

 12 April, 2013
 01 June, 2012

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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The Angels' Share Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 11, 2013

While in possession of a storied filmmaking career, director Ken Loach isn’t one to hunt for a laugh. Rarely exposing his funny bone, Loach aims for a slightly lighter tone with “The Angels’ Share,” though any smiles are quickly tempered by the crushing reality of human fallibility. As with any Loach picture, the effort is a mix of emotions and hardships with a Scottish tilt, yet pockets of brevity are welcome, permitting the movie an approachability and unpredictability that’s often missing from the helmer’s work. I’d even go as far as to suggest “The Angels’ Share” is somewhat charming, which is a reaction not typically found with a Loach endeavor.

Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is a troubled young man with anger and employment issues that have ruined his life. Brought to court for troublemaking, Robbie is sentenced to community service, placed into the care of Harry (John Henshaw), who takes a shine to the needy soul, becoming a mentor in the ways of whisky appreciation. Finding interest in something other than self-destruction, Robbie is enlivened by the hobby, a streak of positivity that extends to his girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) and his infant son. Finding friendship with others in the community service program, Robbie struggles to seize a lasting change in his life, with Leonie’s father offering him a wad of cash to leave his daughter forever. Touring distilleries and acquiring an admiration for whisky, Robbie learns of a special lost cask of “Malt Mill,” a highly valued drink that’s about to go up for auction, with dealer Thaddeus (Roger Allam) eager to acquire the rare prize. Seizing an opportunity, Robbie concocts a plan with his impulsive pals to steal the cask, thus creating considerable funding for a fresh start.

I’m not suggesting “The Angels’ Share” is a chock full of bellylaughs, but it’s the first Loach film in some time that lacks the sensation of having a plastic grocery bag pulled over one’s face. Introducing a gang of ne’er-do-wells, including kleptomaniac Mo (Jasmin Riggins) and klutz Albert (Gary Maitland), to join Robbie on his mission to escape Glasgow with pilfered booze, Loach sustains an amiable mood of jesting and bonding, watching as the gang goes from strangers to partners as a one-of-a-kind criminal opportunity comes into view. Interplay shows humor and a touch of slapstick, while the soundtrack pumps The Proclaimers’ smash, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” on a few occasions to relax the viewer, introducing an unexpectedly jaunty vibe to the proceedings as the group travels beyond their comfort zone to experience culture by way of whisky.

As with any Loach production, there’s a concentration on emotional frustration to help launch the story, greeting Robbie as he’s forced to confront his past misdeeds as a violent offender. Unable to find a focal point to his life despite great shame over the trouble he’s caused, Robbie is lost -- a new father encumbered with unimaginable responsibility, finding Harry’s patience soothing and his compassion refreshing. Loach communicates the ache within the character as he meets with a former victim (a heartbreaking scene of absorption) and faces expulsion from his own future, reaching a point where he must take some type of action and find his footing. That this salvation comes in the form of whisky knowledge is one of the many charming surprises in Paul Laverty’s screenplay, which locates a compassionate tone of experiences and enlightenment in peculiar areas of study, observing Robbie blossom as a man once his instinct to lash out is tempered by a startling interest in education. It’s a meaningful character arc that Loach allows to naturally unfold, despite a plot that hints at a few contrived directions.

There’s confusion in the heist-ish third act of “The Angels’ Share,” which essentially sums up a story of a life reformed with a “crime does pay” climax, blurring the message of movie. It’s not obnoxiously underlined, but the moral is just itchy enough to wonder what Loach is hoping to express with the finale, leaving the audience with hope, yet the soulful elevation is acquired through unsavory acts of theft. The question mark doesn’t disturb the overall emotional significance of the feature, but it exits the production on an unnerving note, which is perhaps Loach’s most comfortable filmmaking position.

Starring: Paul Brannigan (III), John Henshaw (I), Roger Allam, Gary Maitland
Director: Ken Loach

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