THE ANGELS’ SHARE
Directed by: Ken Loach
Written by: Paul Laverty
Starring: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, William Ruane, Siobhan Reilly, Roger Allam
This is a reprint of our AFI Fest review.
Genuinely heartwarming films are hard to come by these days. It’s damn near impossible to find one critics like myself don’t find over-produced and overly schmaltzy. Well, we can call off the search! Taking its name from a term used in whiskey distilling, THE ANGELS’ SHARE is a feel-good film with cinematic street cred behind the camera. Director Ken Loach delivers a finely crafted heist comedy audiences should not only toast, but drink up. Heart and humor are the film’s bouquet with smokey notes of sweet sincerity and redemption. Best of all, there’s no bitter aftertaste.
Scotsman Robbie (Paul Brannigan) has always been a bit of a screw-up – running around with the wrong crowd and stealing. But everything changes after the birth of his son Luke when his girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) issues an ultimatum: Shape up or ship out. Even though Leonie gives him a second chance, the outside world isn’t as kind to this former criminal on the mend. While doing community service, he meets heckler Rhino (William Ruane), jokester Albert (Gary Maitland), and sticky-fingers Mo (Jasmin Riggins). Like him, they find it impossible to find steady jobs because of their criminal pasts. One day, service group supervisor and mentor Harry (John Henshaw) introduces this comical motley crew to the magic of malt whiskey brewing. Just like that, the gang is hooked. Finding purpose in something other than themselves inspires them to change their lives for the better – only they’ll have to rely on their past criminal skills in order to do so.
THE ANGELS’ SHARE takes its tone and inspiration from THE FULL MONTY, CALENDAR GIRLS, and any other film that features societal cast-offs banding together for the greater good. Loach has crafted a character driven narrative that never relies on common story tropes or screenwriting devices to get its point across. Just like the fine whiskey the script immortalizes, this film is genuine, rich, and robust, and ends in a clean, well-defined finish. You root for this ragtag crew right from the opening credits where we see the individual members’ sentencing. If only community service was that much fun in this country, and more people were willing to take a second chance on individuals desperately needing one. It’s a great premise for a comedy, and Loach, with help from Paul Laverty’s screenplay, executes it brilliantly. Marrying organic, naturalist performances from the ensemble cast with the unobtrusive, well-balanced script makes for a home-grown and deeply poignant underdog picture audiences will be sure to cheer.
Even though the story is fairly straightforward, it does take a little while to get rolling. Nevertheless, once the emotional stakes are all laid out for Robbie, audiences will be in for a real treat once the narrative finds air. Some might complain of not being able to understand local jargon through the thick Scottish accents. However, don’t fret. If you miss something spoken, Loach will show it happening. Just relax and just let it wash over you – it’s better than having to read subtitles. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who’s known for capturing riveting, naturalistic performances in FISH TANK, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and GINGER & ROSA, does so once again and quite brilliantly. His natural light set-ups complement the narrative’s pleasant tone. Timing is everything, especially when it comes to comedy, and editor Jonathan Morris’ cuts build to a brisk pace and help the film’s best moments shine.
Overall, this film will resonate with viewers far and wide. Not only will it make you appreciate the art of a fine adult beverage, but it will make you appreciate fine filmmaking. Bottoms up!
4.5 out of 5
THE ANGELS’ SHARE opens in New York and Los Angeles on April 12.