The Lark of the Century....
, 16 Jul 2013
Filmmaker Ken Loach is not someone who you would asociate with comedy to much. Known for his uncompromising stories of social injustice told with searing intensity, and just a little humour. sometimes uncomfortable to watch but always brillaint. This is what makes THE ANGELS SHARE all the more remarkable. The usual Loach elements are all in there, but there is a gentle spirit at work here as well, and not just the alcoholic spirits around which the plot revolves. This is a film about chance: chances taken, chances given, and the chance meetings that can profoundly change a life. The life in question is that of Robbie Emerson (Paul Brannigan), the product of Glasgows permanent underclass, who has until now spent his time brawling, drinking, drugging, and otherwise carrying on the brutal traditions of his peers without considering the possibility of another way of conducting his life. A near miss at another term in jail, and the imminence of fatherhood courtesy of committed girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) causes him to sit up, take notice, and, against all odds, decide against leaving to his son the brutal life his father and grandfather have left to him. Keeping out of scrapes with the law proves difficult. There is his the ongoing blood feud with another family to contend with, and Leonies male relatives wanting to see him, if not dead, at least gone from Glasgow. What saves him is the community service to which he is sentenced after his last scrape, which brings him to the attention of Harry (John Henshaw), a big hulk of a man whose appearance belies a tender heart and a genuine, even sophisticated, appreciation for Scotch whiskey. These two chance developments allow Robbie to discover, among other things, that he has an extraordinary nose when it comes to judging whiskey, a drink hed never tasted before, or thought of even trying for that matter. More chance encounters follow, including one with a posh whiskey collector (Roger Allam) who sees the value of Robbies specific talent, and an oddball set of new friends also doing community service with Harry. People who are petty criminals, but given the chance, theres that word again,Chance, they can make something of thier life's. Loach and frequent collaborator, Paul Laverty dont hide the violence or hopelessness that leads to it, and results from it. When Leonies uncles keep Robbie from seeing his newborn son, they dont just rough him up to make their point, they beat him bloody. The language itself reflects the reality, the swearing is fast and hard, the talk of the streets. So when Robbie trembles when picking up his son for the first time, with tears streaming down his face as one of his past victims recall the beating that sent him to the hospital, the struggle to overcome conditioning and the acquired instincts that have kept him ther, is gut wrenching. It also makes perfect sense of the wild caper Robbie plans to change his life forever, involving his new friends, kilts, and a cask of rare whiskey. Even here, Loach is never frivolous, making one point after another, but with an unusually deft touch. Robbie and his pals set their sights on appropriating for profit, i. e. steal, a rare malt mill whiskey, of which only one cask remains. Destined for a collector rich enough to afford it, a connoisseur or not, and by its nature available only once, this marvel of the distilling art is become a commodity, valued more for bragging rights than its exquisite nature, and certainly beyond the reach of the craftsman who made it, or people like Robbie or Harry who could appreciate for itself, not for its price. THE ANGELS SHARE, the title refers to the 2 percent of whiskey that disappears from the casks as it ages, is filmed with Loachs masterful style. Hand-held cameras give immediacy and edginess where necessary. For a film with unbearably lifelike bloodletting, THE ANGELS SHARE has a sweetness to it as well, the sweetness, perhaps of a mellow whiskey, the which is celebrated for its mysterious alchemy as well as its symbolic nature. Pronounced notes of salt and leather and peat temper the sweetness, but dont overpower it. They only make it all the more precious. Sorry for being a bit poetic but this film unlike most of Loaches films really touches you deeply, not in a hard edged way of reality but in the sweet kind loving part of your soul'The Angels' Share' leaves you with a warm glow.......
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