“Why Did They Stick It Up There?” THE ANGELS’ SHARE Review

★★★★

Life does not hand out second chances often and when those lucky enough to be given the opportunity squander it, do they really deserve any more? How many mistakes can one make in life before time ultimately makes them the fool? Among other questions, director Ken Loach explores these ideas in his award winning (Jury Prize – Festival de Cannes) new film The Angels’ Share. He may be an Englishman but like Loach’s previous work he is able to capture the spirit and energy of Glasgow and Scotland the way only an outsider could.

Glasgow Sheriff Court. Another day another set of delinquents making their way through the court system. To the legal system’s eye they are adults but as anyone can plainly see the lot before the judge have no more maturity than a 16 year-old. Robbie (Paul Brannigan) has been in and out of the system all his life, this time brought in for assault. It would seem his last chance has come and gone but upon learning Robbie will soon be a father, the judge compassionately sentences him to community payback instead of hard time.

Robbie serves his time with Albert (Gary Maitland), Mo (Jasmin Riggings) and Rhino (William Ruane) under the guidance of Harry (John Henshaw) the group’s supervisor. When they hear the news of Robbie’s son’s birth Harry rushes Robbie to the hospital only to be denied visitation by Leonie’s father who doesn’t care for Robbie or his family. Harry convinces Robbie to not lash out against Leonie’s father considering his current legal quarrels, instead offering him to join him for a drink of fine whiskey in celebration of fatherhood.

The spirit of The Angels’ Share is what makes this film something truly remarkable. Loach turns to comedy rather than drama as we watch these young lives play out before our eyes. The social realism is still very present as it is an all of Loach’s films but here it is very warm and whole-hearted. Moments of drama still play out as a very emotional scene capturing Robbie holding his boy for the first time and making the vow to turn his life around for this new life.

The relationship between Harry and Robbie is something really unique. Their initial meeting plays out like a father trying to teach his son a life lesson about being on time. This relationship continues throughout shifting back and forth from tough love to genuine empathy. Harry understands these men and knows how hard it can be to turn one’s life around. It’s these relationships that offer a real chance at new life and throughout the film this is what the characters must learn for themselves.

The full, rich tones of The Angels’ Share are captured through the exquisite writing of Paul Laverty and while this is a lovely tale of redemption it is not without a share of subtle mischief. It is said that two percent of the whisky in the barrels evaporates every year; this is known as the angels’ share. Second chances do not come very often and even though these four know a change needs to happen in their lives, perhaps one last heist will provide the opportunity to really start over. After all, it seems the angels have all ready had their share.

David Rowley

Rating:15
UK Release Date:1st June 2012
Directed By:Ken Loach
Cast:Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggings, William Ruane

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