Sunday, 10 June 2012
Review: The Angels' Share (UK cert 15)
Winner of the Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Fest, The Angels' Share is equal parts comedy and gritty social drama- Whisky Galore meets Neds, if you like. Whisky Galore is a fairly appropriate comparison: the title comes from a term used in the production of whisky, for the amount that evaporates naturally during the maturing process.
Spared jail for a vicious attack spurred on by an old family feud, expectant father Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is instead given community service. Genial community service supervisor Harry (John Henshaw) takes a shine to Robbie and, to toast the birth of Robbie's son, offers him a wee dram. To Robbie's surprise, he finds he has a discriminating palate when it comes to whisky- and when it is announced that one of the world's rarest malts has been found in a rural distillery and is about to be auctioned, Robbie and his community service mates plan a daring heist to liberate some and turn their lives around.
Ken Loach is one of the UK's most hard-hitting directors but he's in rare comedy mode here, although the script by Paul Laverty doesn't shy away from the harsh realities that Robbie and his mates face. Unfortunately the comedy and the social commentary don't always sit together well- an undeniably hard-hitting scene at a restorative justice meeting, where Robbie faces a young man he brutally attacked, is powerful but feels like we're being beaten round the head ourselves- we already know that Robbie has a tendency to violence so it feels slightly extraneous. There's also a fairly queasy joke at Robbie's flatmate's expense regarding the whisky tasting which is unpleasant and, rather than eliciting a laugh from me, made me feel a little sick.
There are a few bum notes but its generally a breezy and light affair, even if using The Proclaimers' '500 Miles' to denote a long journey is a metaphor too far. There's a nice camaraderie among Robbie and his mates Rhino (William Ruane), Mo (Jasmine Riggins) and Albert (Gary Maitland) even if Albert's stupidity is often the cause of an easy joke. The plan for the whisky heist is pretty clever, all said, and there is a sudden (if not exactly unexpected) twist towards the end which threatens to scupper the plan.
Performance-wise, it's pretty good across the board. Brannigan gives a nice and very naturalistic performance in his first film credit and Henshaw is great as Harry. All-in-all, an enjoyable alternative to more mainstream (Hollywood) fare. I'll drink to that!
Rating: 3 out of 5