The Angels’ Share

Director: Ken Loach

Starring: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmine Riggins

Written by Paul Laverty

Running Time: 109 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: st June 2012

Ken Loach is one of British best film directors. His movies are usually heavy, shocking, sometimes controversial, usually political. So when Looking For Eric came to our screens a few years ago, it was somewhat of a surprise. A light, charming little comedy with elements of Loach’s hard-hitting social-drama. His last film, The Route Irish, saw him return to his political stance. Now comes The Angels’ Share and the question on my mind is this: Has old age mellowed Ken Loach?

Robbie is a thug from Glasgow. He has spent most of his life getting into trouble with the law. When we first meet him, he is in court up against charges to ABH. Luckily, Robbie has a girlfriend who is pregnant and he is desperate to turn his life around. Given community service, Robbie is taken under the wing by Harry, a big-hearted community worker organiser, who introduces Robbie to the world of whisky, not just drinking it but appreciating the history and the nose. Robbie finds he has a talent. A very good nose. When an opportunity to change his life arrives, Robbie and his three fellow workers take the chance, if it is a little illegal.

This comes at you like a modern, foul-mouthed Ealing comedy. Many have compared it to the classic Whisky Galore and you can understand why. Set in Glasgow, it has the charm and wit that the 1949 comedy had but it also has the same feel that Bill Forsyth bought to Gregory’s Girl and, more so, Local Hero. Scripted by regular collaborator Paul Laverty, it is full of terrific lines and a plot that, while maybe a little far-fetched, brings a massive goofy grin to your face.

Robbie starts off as a very unlikeable character and it is to the talent of unknown Paul Brannigan for making him a much more amenable individual. His central performance carries the film and he is excellent. You follow his journey with great interest and even when you know he is doing wrong, you feel for his plight and secretly you want him to succeed.

Loach’s supporting cast are also just as good. John Henshaw, as Harry, is a delightfully natural actor who brings humanity to his character, while the friends, Jasmine Riggins as the shop lifting Mo, Loach regular William Ruane as Rhino and Gary Maitland, excellent as the slightly dim Albert, all help this film move along nicely.

There, of course, are moments of Loach’s harder side: the scene in which Robbie has to meet one of his previous “victims” is both powerful and uncomfortable. Some of the violence sits a little too unevenly in a film that is more uplifting than depressing. The language is quite choice too. If you are easily offended by strong language, then maybe this won’t be for you.

If you can stomach the sudden outburst of quite brutal violence and the incredibly strong language you will be in for a treat. This is a far funnier film than you would have thought. In fact, if you are looking for a real feel-good feeling then this is the movie to check out. In a time filled with Summer blockbusters, it is always worth while hunting down the smaller, low budget films such as this, as it will give you far more entertainment. Loach mellowing? If he is, then I definitely like it.

Finally, the explanation of the title, The Angels’ Share. It’s when the alcohol in the whisky evaporates so the goes to the angels. Sweet, huh? Just like this film.


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