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The Angels' Share

The Angels' Share

Released 1 June 2012
Director Ken Loach

John Henshaw, William Ruane, Gary Maitland, Roger Allam, Paul Brannigan, Siobhan Reilly, Jasmin Riggins
Writer(s) Paul Laverty
Producer(s) Rebecca O'Brien
Origin United Kingdom, France
Running Time  
Genre Drama, comedy

No Angels.

Touted as Scotland's answer to The Full Monty, Ken Loach's latest film The Angels' Share tells the story of a violent young criminal who is determined to change his ways for the sake of his girlfriend and newborn son. Famed for the social realism of his movies, Loach has again taken a gritty backdrop and superimposed a sweet and strangely uplifting story that clinched the Jury Prize at this years' Cannes Film Festival.

Narrowly avoiding a custodial sentence, young Glaswegian Robbie (Paul Brannigan) must instead do several hundred hours of community service. The fact that most of his mates have been ordered to do exactly the same thing means that the community service, overseen by budding whisky connoisseur Harry (John Henshaw), is more like a holiday camp in overalls. Inspired by a visit to a whisky distillery he and his hapless amigos hitch a plan that will hopefully net them thousands and more importantly, a route out of the damp-stricken poverty of Glasgow's inner city.

Loach has the nerve-rending ability to counterbalance the sweet and innocence with the murkier depths of violence. The Angels' Share has both and it is the sheer understatement with which the drama and whisky plot evolve simultaneously that makes it quite a good, fun and oftentimes compelling film. Acted mainly by newcomers and non-professionals is a risk that pays off for Loach and the film's producers as Brannigan and co. give unselfconscious performances that seem unscripted-peppered by 'Glasgoisms' and the kind of colloquial terms that may leave some viewers scratching their heads in confusion. The grey daubed walls of the council flats where the tangy bright orange of the half empty bottles of Irn Bru shine like beacons in their depressing environs are supposedly atypical of inner city life-and anyone who has ever watched BBC's no-holds-barred documentary The Scheme can attest to the widespread social problems in areas where drug taking, poverty and violence are rampant.

There are however several instances where The Angels' Share seems just that little bit too transparent and simple but then one tug of the reins by Loach and we're back in 'no illusions' territory. It may even appear that Loach is championing Robbie to the detriment of all the victims of his past life but a scene in which Robbie agrees to meet a victim of his unbridled anger and hear the damage, both physical and mental, he has inflicted on the young man and his family is both heartrending and compelling. They are no angels, Robbie and his mates. And yet the subtext of The Angels' Share is that they deserve a second chance.

- Louisa McElwee