THE ANGELS’ SHARE. Starring Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmine Riggins, William Ruane, Roger Allam, Siobhan Reilly. Directed by Ken Loach. 101 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong coarse language and violence).
A film about whisky – and more.
Ken Loach has been directing films on the working classes for almost fifty years. And he is definitely still on their side. And, as this film goes on, we are invited to be on their side – with mixed results, on side with some, yes, and others…
The film opens with the dopiest of the lot, a bespectacled nong on a railway station, almost killed by a passing train. But, he finds himself in court as do a succession of men and women charged with petty crimes, quite an entertaining credits sequence. Then they are sentenced to do community service. (Actually, the film makes a very good case for community service instead of prison sentences.) They are under the care of the rather benign Harry (John Henshaw) with the focus narrowing to Robbie (Paul Brannigan) who has been in jail, is bashed by his prospective father-in-law and other thugs, especially when he goes to hospital for the birth of his son.
With Harry and Robbie, the audience gets involved empathetically with them and to some of the rest of the group who paint halls, clean cemeteries and other jobs.
Harry is fond of whisky and knows more than a bit about malts. It emerges quite quickly that Rob has a nose and a palette for tasting and identifying the whiskies. He shines at a competition and makes a contact with an expert. Will it lead to something substantial for Rob, for Leonie and their son Luke?
What it actually leads to is a clever whisky heist, stealing some of the whisky, that which may not be missed, the angels’ share.
This is a film about hope, Robbie’s hope, and the possibilities of overcoming one’s background and mistakes. It is both serious and funny (especially that dopey character from the opening).
And, if you find you are leaning forward in your seat, you soon realise that it is not because you are involved (which you are) but you are straining to understand as much of the heavily-accented dialogue as you can!
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 15, 2012.