The Angels’ Share

Ken Loach’s filmmography is quite contrasted, the British director usually alternating between heavy fares and light comedies, like if he was trying to breathe some air into his tense body of work. Whether his movies tackle politics The Wind That Shakes the Barleyor social strugglesSweet Sixteenhis films always brush a gritty portrait of a British society that doesn’t offer much hope for his youth.

While The Angels’ Share focuses once again on troubled teenagers, Mr. Loach’s work is this time unusually light in tones, offering his characters a way out, rather than letting them prisoners of their fate. The film follows Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a young thug who gets offered a second chance when an educator (John Henshaw) takes him to visit a whisky distillery. Paul shows a surprising talent when it comes to tasting whisky and Mr. Loach seems to be amused to drop this kid in a world where he doesn’t belong. Of course, being a satire, this won’t be a story about transformation or just a fish-out-of-water comedy but rather a tale about opportunities, Paul using his streetwise credentials to take advantage of the situation.

While Paul’s runnings with the law and problems with other hustlers are nothing new in Mr. Loach’s universe, what’s more interesting here is his take on the whisky business, which is shown as an elitist, snob universe that could also be applied to the wine world – replace the Brits with the Scots with the French and you’ll see how the setting is interchangeable. This is also why Mr. Loach turns Paul into a natural whisky connoisseur, this proletarian character being used a “social weapon” mocking those whisky suits who seem to think they belong to an exclusive class.

If the social theme of this work is of course omnipresent,The Angel’s Shareproves to be also pretty effective when it comes to comedic moments and suspense. Mr. Loach makes sure that Paul’s plans don’t go too smooth and at least twice he puts both his characters and the audience in embarrassing moments we really want to get out of. The cast is particularly fresh and believable making the audience root for Paul and his 3 partners in crime, even if their little scheme is far from being ethical. Still Mr. Loach makes sure Paul has a nice gesture in the end, making him thankful for having a shot at a second chance.

The Angels’ Share might not as powerful as other of Mr. Loach’s – award winning – films but it has enough soul and bite to create a convincing and enjoyable work.

Director: Ken Loach – Actors: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw – Running Time: 1:41 – Year: 2012 Country: U.K.

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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.