The Angels’ Share (15)

Nov 20, 2013
Cranbrook Film Society

The sole British contender for the Palme D’Or at Cannes 2012, the film is a crime caper set on the west coast of Scotland, complex on the palate but with a lasting toasty finish, and framed by one of the social realist, working class narratives that Loach has made his trademark.

‘Ken Loach does hope’ could be the headline a Fleet Street sub-editor might slap on a review of The Angels’ Share, in which a young Scot accidentally finds salvation and a way out of his trapped life of crime and misery. Except of course it’s more complicated than that.

The film draws us in – despite the heavy brogue that does require attention – with its dramatic set up. Young Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is a slight chap but he’s evidently quite capable of violence, especially when ‘coked to the eyeballs’. Nor is Robbie an exception as we are told in a series of vignettes under the opening credits with a parade of sinners through the court. Robbie’s determination to change his ways is born of new fatherhood and then meeting his community worker Harry (John Henshaw), after barely escaping a custodial sentence. Harry is not only a good role model, he has an interest in malt whisky that is more than just drinking it. This leads to Robbie’s ultimate escape, but not before he overcomes a few challenges.

In one scene Robbie has to confront a young man who is the victim of one of his violent bouts, along with the young man’s family; although clearly manipulative, the scene works as another motivator for Robbie to make a conscious change. This point is probably the film’s central message, but how he raises the money to make a new start is – all too realistically – illegal.

The principal cast is everything we expect from a Loach film, textured and complex and rough hewn working class, and Roger Hallam is great as whisky collector Thaddeus. As for the title, it’s the traditional reference to the 2% of whisky that simply evaporates during maturation.

Paul Levarty’s expletive-laden screenplay sets out a tough but engaging redemption story, daubed with humour and hope. Every scene is a pleasure to listen to; many are also knee-slappingly funny. This is British comedy at its warmest and most pleasurable; cask strength, unfiltered and neat.

Cast: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Roger Allam, Gary Maitland, Siobhan Reilly, Joy McAvoy (James’s sister)

Awards: Won Scottish BAFTA 2012, Jury Prize Cannes Film Festival 2012, C├ęsar France 2013 also 14 nominations including Palme d’Or 2012

Ken Loach | Scotland | 2013 | 101 mins | 15


            Weighted vote 89.8%