The Angels’ Share
The Angels’ Share is Ken Loach’s (Kes, My Name Is Joe) Cannes Jury Prize-winning latest film. The cast is made up of relative unknowns with the exception of Roger Allam and John Henshaw.
The Angels’ Share follows Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a thug who is trying to reform his life due to the arrival of his first child with his long-suffering partner Leonie (Siobhan Reilly). The problem that faces Robbie is that not everyone is willing to let his past go. Leonie’s gangster father and an old family rival threaten to drag Robbie back into a world of violence that he has sworn to give up. It’s only when Harry (John Henshaw), the man in charge of Robbie’s community service, gives him a chance that things start to turn around for him.
Robbie has an almost preternatural talent for identifying whiskies by tasting; Harry helps develop this skill. Just as Robbie seems to be finally turning his life around for good, a series of incidents threaten to ruin everything. He’s left with only one option — to steal the most expensive whiskey in the world and flee Glasgow with his new family.
The Angels’ Share is a surprisingly broad and upbeat comedy for a Ken Loach film, those who are familiar with his back catalogue would be forgiven for dismissing the idea of “broad” and “Ken Loach” being associated. There are a few moments that descend into poor, cheap laughs, the most notable being the fart gag as the main characters and sniffing the whiskies. However for the most part, Ken Loach does what he does best — draw out humour of the everyday. One or two characters veer worryingly close to becoming two-dimensional but with the intimate cinematography, casual swearing of every other word and brilliant script, each character ends up being well-rounded. Some brilliant set pieces of dialogue which include one character decrying another as a “Philippine” instead of a Philistine make up the stand-out comedy moments.
Paul Brannigan’s performance as Robbie is excellent. With awkward glances and wistful looks, he manages to explore the themes of retribution and personal conflict without hamming it up. One scene that does really jar with the feel of the rest of the film is the meeting between Robbie and one of his victims. While the scene is wonderfully acted and brilliantly shot it only really served to temper the comedy with sadness, and make Robbie seem like a far less amiable character. It almost felt as if it was included by Loach to demonstrate he has sold out or lost his roots in massively depressing storytelling.
While there may be a few plot holes and a couple of humour failures, the film’s really great strength is in getting the audience to interact with the characters. Loach’s limitless skill of portraying believable, genuine characters is at the heart of this film. With brilliant dialogue, flawless acting and a real depth of feeling, The Angels’ Share easily wins you over and has you wincing and laughing along with the characters. While it may not have the artistry of My Name Is Joe or the humorous complexity of Looking for Eric, The Angels’ Share may be one of Ken Loach’s more mainstream-friendly films. It makes you laugh and leaves you with a warm feeling inside which is exactly what it aims to do.
The Angels’ Share is released nationwide on 1st June 2012.
Watch the trailer for The Angels’ Share here: