The Angels' Share - Oddly Structured British Comedy

                                    Ken Loach -- the veteran British director -- have made social-realist tales for the past five decades. His movies always have some dark and serious overtones although occasionally has shown a whimsical, ealing comedy streak. Loach's latest, "The Angels' Share" (2012), the winner of this year's Jury Prize at Cannes, belongs to one of his amiable comedies. It tells the story of a Glaswegian criminal given one last chance by a judge, owing to his impending fatherhood. I seriously doubt that the film will recruit  new devotees to this latest work of Loach, who has always been a niche director for specialized audiences.

     The movie commences in the Glasgow Sheriff's court, where it introduces the young characters at the pic's heart.Our protagonist Robbie (Paul Brannigan) narrowly escape a prison sentence by claiming that he wants to reform and lead a straight, normal life, especially now that he is expecting baby with his partner, Leonie (Siobhan Reilly). Along with Robbie, the other bunch of hoodlums charged with minor allegations like shoplifting, are all assigned to community service under the supervision of Harry (John Henshaw).

                     Robbie befriends other members of his work detail: bespectacled Albert (Gary Maitland), Rhino (William Ruane) and light-fingered Mo (Jasmin Riggins). For Robbie, the ominous shadow of  past hangs over his head, and worries that he is not good enough for his girlfriend. He was offered five grand by Leonie's father to leave her and the new-born son. A turning point occurs in Robbie's life, when Harry takes his group for a visit to a distillery. It opens Robbie’s eyes to the joys of whiskey, in all its forms and varieties.

                It turns out that Robbie has a remarkable olfactory gift and he is dept at identifying the various types of Whiskey. One day, Robbie hears about an extremely rare cask of whiskey set to fetch a million pounds at auction. He hatches a plan to filch some of that rare malt whiskey before it is sold in auction.

           Director Loach and his long-time prolific collaborator and screenwriter Paul Leverty, like all their films offers a rare big-screen platform to working-class voices from the impoverished fringes of Scotland’s biggest city. But the prevailing tone here is upbeat and comic, with softening of political dogma. Loach's method of forging on-set dynamics between characters through unscripted interplay and improvisation makes "The Angels' Share" even better than his realist dramas. Al though in some places, the story's tonal shifts are jarringly uneven, zigzagging from violent urban thriller to serious social drama to cheery comic caper.

             Paul Brannigan's Robbie (in his first movie role) gives us a nuanced, charismatic performance that holds our sympathy throughout. Brannigan is real life ex-con, spotted by Loach in a community center. The spot on supporting performances in the strong cast consists of Gary Maitland as the dimmest of the crooks and Roger Allam as a smooth operator in the illicit collectors’ booze market.

               There is some politics, social message, the impact of poverty and unemployment. All these themes underlies in every aspect of this funny, warm-hearted, deftly plotted film, and we fervently wish for the caper planned by this endearing quartet to succeed. The few minor glitches and clumsy touches do not seriously diminish the charm of this film. The movie's title, is the term used to refer to the 2% of whiskey that evaporates in the cask each year.

               In "The Angels' Share", like the age old whiskey, the British social realist director has mellowed with age. But this is suitable for him, since the movie ultimately offers a heart-warming celebration of kindness, friendship and forgiveness.



provoqd said...

Thanks for the honest review Arun.
I'll surely give this a try soon.
Keep posting ;)



Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Whoa nice review..Haven't watched it yet but will check it out soon and return with a comment said...

Dear arun
nice review. This film has been selected for screening at the 10th Chennai intl film festival to be held bet dec 13 & dec 20. will try to watch the movie as i heard about ken loach earlier. hope to meet you at the festival if you are in chennai. registrations open Rs.500 + 1 photo only for the entire festival. more info : thanks for sharing a nice movie
friendly sundar g rasanai chennai

Khoty Mathur said...

I must be the only one who didn't like this movie. Robbie promises to go straight but commits a robbery to make his life a success. What message does that give to the ex convict who acted the part, the wife, the newborn baby? That we should mouth platitudes but make money by hook or crook? Once a thief always a thief? A million dollar whiskey barrell left completely unguarded at night also made me wonder.