Ken Loach and Paul Laverty have done it again. Angels’ Share is that rare thing. A great British film with all the warmth and complexity a fine malt whisky.
Loach and Paul Laverty have done it again. Angels’ Share is that rare thing. A
great British film with all the warmth and complexity a fine malt whisky.
Taking its title from the alcohol that evaporates
during the whisky aging process, Angels’ Share is the tenth Loach and Laverty
collaboration, in a partnership which has produced such memorable movies as Carla’s Song, Bread And Roses and The Wind That Shakes The Barley. This
time, the duo have returned to Scotland with a bittersweet comedy about
redemption and hope.
Robbie, played with stunning sensitivity, by Paul Brannigan, is a young father-to-be
desperate to escape the cycle of violence and vengeance in which he’s
trapped. Narrowly avoiding another
jail term, he’s sentenced to community payback along with fellow offenders
Albert (Gary Maitland), Rhino (William Ruane) and Mo (Jasmin Riggins). Redemption comes in
the form of his supervisor Harry, played by John Henshaw. Harry is a big man with a big heart who takes Robbie
into his home and teaches him about the joys of whisky. Cue an audacious heist
and the hope of a better future for Robbie and his new found friends.
There’s an Ealing
Comedy feel to Angels’ Share which is both uplifting and surprising.
However, as director Ken Loach explained, every tale has its light and dark:
“Every story has a different tenor. You could take these characters and tell a
very bleak story. We wanted to tell a story that would make you glad to know
them because, behind the statistics, there are characters like this. Behind the
million unemployed, there are lots of characters like Albert who are fun to be
with as well as having a very tough time.”
Loach is a filmmaker at the height of his powers
and although he clearly has great sympathy for his subject matter, he never
resorts to maudlin sentiment or cheap cinematic tricks. It would have been easy
to make Robbie a misunderstood ‘innocent’. He isn’t. In fact when we see, in
flashback, the visceral attack that landed him in jail originally, it’s as
sickening as it is senseless. Robbie is no fantasy hero. Just a man who wants a
second chance to get out from under.
The director’s secret to keeping it ‘real’ is
showing characters like Robbie, with warts and all. “The script”, he explained,
“ has got to be real and the people you get to bring it to life, have to be
real … I think that, if you set things up in the right way … you can …
make it seem spontaneous … You can make a film seem unreal by the way you cut
it or the way you light it …
To work, every aspect … has to serve the same principle, but be
totally discrete. Totally unannounced, somehow.”
The result is a film which has been compared to
the likes of The Full Monty and Trainspotting. The Angels’ Share is
better acted, better plotted and has better gags than both. It also has Loach’s
unmistakable stamp of sincerity.
One of the reasons, perhaps, for the film’s
rather surprising 15 Certificate (18 for the uncut Blu-ray) is that Loach and
Laverty tell stories that engage you intellectually as well as emotionally. The Expendables murder, maim, and
wisecrack, with impunity (and a 15 Certificate). But it’s cartoon violence,
with no consequences. The Angels’ Share is, in turns, hilarious and harrowing,
heart-warming and horrifying. For every action, there is a re-action, and just
like in the real world there might not be a happy ever after. “You want the audience to remember that there’s a wider
picture …” Loach explained. “Part of it is a happy ending and part of it is
quite sad .You should enjoy their … triumph and hope they make it, but it’s not
going to be easy because you know that Robbie is not that far away from
violence and all the rest.”
So are we ever likely to see Ken Loach’s Batman,
and if so what might it look like?
Loach laughs. “I think that’s such an unreal proposition that I can’t
engage with it. Because basically they’re products not films … The directors
are there just to point a camera. I don’t think that’s a job for me
really.” Which, in an era where
too much talent is wasted on bland blockbusters and flaccid film franchises, is
really good to know.
Angels’ Share is out on DVD and BluRay this week.