The Angel’s Share Movie Review

Featuring: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Siobhan Reilly, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, William Ruane, Roger Allam
Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Paul Laverty
Australian release date: 3-9 December (Somerville, Perth)
Reviewer: rolanstein (one-word verdict: engaging)

Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a Glaswegian petty crim with a history of violence, is introduced to the finer points of whisky by his kind-hearted community service officer, Harry (John Henshaw), and discovers he has an extraordinary palate. Teaming up with a motley crew of fellow offenders, Robbie masterminds an audacious heist, the object being the contents of the only existing barrel of one of the world’s most prized and valuable single malts.

Last week I caught Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share at Joondalup’s excellent open-air venue for the Perth 2012-13 Lotterywest Festival Films program. Joondalup’s site is smaller and more intimate than the Somerville. Don’t hesitate to check it out if you’re in the mood for outdoor cinema – and with last week’s unseasonably squally weather a fading memory, why wouldn’t you be?

The movie switches to Somerville this week, running from 3–9 December, commencing 8pm. Gotta dash this review down in haste, then, if it’s to be up in time to persuade you teeming hordes of Boomtown Rap faithfuls to make the effort to see this one before it finishes. Which you should! This will come as a surprise to regular readers of my reviews who might recall that Loach is not one of my favourite directors – I have to report that this is a little charmer of a flick.

The leftist political agenda that so often dominates his movies is muted here – mercifully, I say. I have no objection to his politics per se (I lean left myself), but I do think his strident didacticism and righteousness often work against his films, limiting their dramatic scope and shackling his characters. Here, the characters are given more freedom, and the performers respond accordingly. There’s a sense that they have fun with their roles. Amateur first-timer Paul Brannigan is especially compelling.

There’s a lightness of touch about the work, which is engaging throughout, and genuinely funny in parts (too often, in previous outings, Loach’s ‘humour’ has come across as silly, rather than funny). And jeez, it’s actually affecting in moments.

Not that the usual Loach political concerns are absent; the site of the drama is still society’s underbelly, the characters are still working-class strugglers dispossessed by circumstance and poor choice – but they’re drawn with compassion, not created out of anger and indignation. That’s a refreshing change, which makes for an accessible and entertaining movie. It’s fun with heart! Three cheers for Ken! And for broad Scottish accents from mostly little-known Scottish actors having a ball with a great script and paying no mind to whether audiences outside Scotland will understand them (it is a challenge at times).

Add fine company, a bottle of wine and something tasty to munch with it before the show, and you’re in for a good night out beneath the stars.

Oh, and the title of the film? The ‘angel’s share’ refers to the 2% of whisky that unaccountably disappears while the brew is maturing in the barrel. Choice bit o lyricism, int it noo?

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

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