‘The Angels’ Share’ Movie Review – Risky Resolution
Among the releases this week is the Scottish comedy The Angels’ Share directed by Ken Loach. Written by Paul Laverty, the film isn’t over-the-top, grab-your-gut funny and it doesn’t exactly have the most lovable characters. This would make you think the movie isn’t all that good, right? Somehow, The Angels’ Share is able to overcome these things and become a type of coming-of-age story that surely proves good can come from bad. The only problem may be what it apparently promotes.
The story takes place in Scotland after the main character, Robbie (Paul Brannigan), narrowly escapes a jail sentence for aggravated assault. Even though he has a scrawny frame, he doesn’t let that get in the way of his fight-first mentality.
After he is sentenced to community service, his girlfriend gives birth to their child. Wanting to turn his life around, he tries getting his life in order, eventually establishing a network that includes his mentor (John Henshaw) and some recovering criminals (Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, and William Ruane). As part of their reward system, they get the opportunity to visit a whiskey distillery, which immediately interests all them.
Robbie becomes an amateur whiskey connoisseur. However, they eventually learn the value of the holy grail of whiskey – the Malt Mill – and realize this could be the ticket to getting them out of town to start a new life.
The angels’ share refers to the amount of whiskey naturally evaporated as it ages. It also serves as a clever little metaphor for Robbie’s relationship with Harry (his mentor).
Loach, as a filmmaker, is known for his social commentary and, more specifically, his social realism. In The Angels’ Share, he deals with a group slightly lower than the middle class, but he still paints an important picture about crime and rehabilitation.
To make it less preachy, it plays out as a comedy. Although it’s more sneaky (there aren’t a whole lot of really, really funny parts), it is still less serious than the premise might make it out to be. Think something similar to Trainspotting. That comparison is a compliment in and of itself, and you don’t have to stretch too far to make this connection.
There are a few things that block this film from moving from “good” to “great,” though. By the end, it’s not necessarily a movie that promotes all the right things. Rehabilitation and changing-for-the-better is not what I’m talking about here. There’s still a little part of the resolution that doesn’t sit well from the social commentary perspective.
The Angels’ Share is best when it’s tip-toeing between comedy and social realism. It’s a tad unfortunate that it can’t find the best resolution possible, but with the premise and the outcome, maybe that was an impossible task. Putting that aside, Ken Loach’s newest film works as best as it can.
The Angels’ Share was released overseas last year. It played at the Cannes Film Festival and competed for the Palme d’Or. It’s finally hitting American theaters starting this weekend. Check it out if you can!
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