THE ANGELS’ SHARE
UK, 2012, 101 minutes, Colour.
Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, William Ruane, Roger Allam, Siobhan Reilly.
Directed by Ken Loach.
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!
1. The work of Ken Loach? The touches of comedy? Serious issues? Social issues? The Scottish background?
2. Loach and his concerns, bringing the lighter touch, his writer, Paul Laverty, and the Scottish perspective?
3. The locations in Glasgow, the city, the railway station, the courts, the restoration of the building, the gardens, the countryside, the roads, the distillery? The feel and the songs?
4. The title, whisky, the share of the whisky that could be stolen – for angels, and others?
5. A whisky film, the taste of malt, scotch, varieties, treasures, stealing and deals?
6. The credits, the introduction to the characters, Albert and his stupid behaviour at the railway station, his surviving? Themes of stealing, violence? The characters in the courts? The judge, the sentences?
7. Community service, John, a kind man, his interest in his charges, the painting, the garden, the graves, the restoration?
8. The film’s focus on Robbie, his having been in prison, his own violence, his girlfriend, her pregnancy, her family and her father’s hostility, the gang bashing him, the threats, preventing him from seeing his girlfriend in the hospital?
9. John, the whisky-tasting, Robbie discovering his skills, his capacity for taste, discernment? The competition and the result? The other members of the group, their attitudes, discussions? The later plan? The interest by Thaddeus? Honesty and dishonesty, taste, selling, offering jobs?
10. The group and their work with John, Albert and the comedy of his being so dumb? Mo, the girl, the background of her surliness? Rhino, genial?
11. The plan, hitchhiking, going to the distillery, Robbie hiding, stealing the whisky, overhearing Thaddeus and his bribe? The effect?
12. The scene of the auction, the American, his bidding, delight in winning? The chairman of the auction? The expert and his scene at the initial tasting, at the auction?
13. The return to Glasgow, being held up by the police, the interrogation, fending off the comments, the comedy with the kilts? Albert, his stupidity, spilling the whisky?
14. Robbie, his shrewdness, getting in touch with Thaddeus, selling the remaining whisky, distributing the money, getting a job? His girlfriend, the baby?
15. A happy ending, despite all the problems along the way?