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This bitter sweet comedy follows protagonist Robbie as he sneaks into the maternity hospital to visit his young girlfriend Leonie and hold his newborn son Luke for the first time. Overwhelmed by the moment, he swears that Luke will not have the same tragic life he has had. Escaping a prison sentence by the skin of his teeth, he's given one last chance......While serving a community service order, he meets Rhino, Albert and Mo who, like him, find it impossible to find work because of their criminal records. Little did Robbie imagine how turning to drink might change their lives - not cheap fortified wine, but the best malt whiskies in the world. Will it be 'slopping out' for the next twenty years, or a new future with 'Uisge Beatha' the 'Water of Life?' Only the angels know........ Written by
Rebecca O'Brien, producer
When Harry is discussing Robbie's life of crime with him, he says that Robbie wouldn't want to miss his son growing up. This is discussed before the child is born. Later, when Luke (Robbie's son) is born, it is clear that no one knew that he would be a boy before the event. See more »
An engaging tale of Scottish desperation & resolve to escape the vortex into the plughole of doom.
Ken Loach does funny! Ken Loach does bleakness, misery, sorrow and hopelessness, too, but in The Angels' Share it is present only to serve the plot and not for characters or viewers to wallow in. The second in my unexpected eight-star double bill after Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Angels' Share is a delightfully engaging story of Scottish desperation and resolve to escape the vortex into the plughole of doom.
I watched it in an Inverness cinema surrounded by Scots who loved every reference, in-joke and scenic delight and I benefited hugely for it. Jump on a plane and do likewise. Or at least find a quiet cinema devoid of morons who bore easily if there are no explosions and settle into your seat a colourful trek through claustrophobic, violent council estates to the sprawling, peaceful Highland vistas.
Robbie (Paul Brannigan) narrowly escapes a long prison sentence for yet another violent attack that has left an innocent victim's life in tatters. He remains free thanks to the work of his persuasive barrister and the small matter of the impending birth of his first baby. It isn't a hero's escape. He's an unpleasant creature who has fallen into a habit of violence and crime, the kind of person you strive to avoid and write off as one of life's hopeless failures.
Fortunately, not everyone thinks this way, least of all Loach. Leonie (Siobhan Reilly), the expectant mother, is a gentle but strong and resolute force in Robbie's life and she supports him, loves him and makes it very clear that she won't take any more of his crap. Either he sorts his life out or he'll lose her and the baby for good. The second great impact on Robbie's life comes in the form of Harry (the always watchable John Henshaw), the man in charge of his community service group. A gentle, caring soul, who is quite possibly alone in the world but for his charges, he could easily be a doormat for the group of young criminals but instead they respect him because he, in turn, respects them. Harry sees potential in Robbie and introduces him and the group to the world of whisky; not drunken swigs from a bottle in a brown paper bag but of touring distilleries, tasting, appreciating and understanding quality single malts and the joy of experiencing the finest of them.
And that leads to a plan The Angels' Share is a strange combination of Trainspotting, any number of 'one last job' capes and Whisky Galore! that confounds the myriad risks of failure. It could so easily be unpleasant because of the characters depicted but they evolve and so we care about them; it could be insensitive by diluting the violent crimes they have committed but Loach never uses that brush to paint a more palatable picture; it could be predictably upbeat and feel-good but the gritty reality of what they are trying to escape is never far away and they uncertainty of whether they will succeed or fall straight back into it is ever present.
There is an impression of non-actors in the cast at times and occasionally it jars but it is easily forgivable because of the setting, the circumstances and the camaraderie they share. The scripting is a rally track through lanes of vicious language and actions, one-liners and jaw-droppingly funny comments and some brutal honesty that is both tough and caring. Oh, and there's one gross-out moment that had most of the audience gagging and laughing simultaneously.
The Angels' Share isn't a film for those who easily squirm at ripe language but it is an uplifting story of scoundrels who become rascals and just may find redemption. The big screen certainly accentuates the occasional stunning, rugged scenery but this is a film that you'll appreciate just as much in the seclusion of your own living room if you can't find a screen near you playing it.
If you're easily put off by the aura of 'worthy' Ken Loach then shame on you. This is easily his most accessible film yet and a great place to start if you're a Loach novice. And a knowledge of or taste for whisky is unimportant although after watching The Angels' Share I wish I could both stomach and appreciate a wee dram.
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