Director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty continue their long-running collaboration (after the likes of Sweet Sixteen, Looking For Eric and Route Irish) with The Angels’ Share, a sweet and funny film with its heart in the right place even if the same can’t always be said for its head.
The story follows new father Robbie (newcomer Paul Brannigan) who narrowly avoids a prison sentence for assault, instead getting 300 hours of community service. His new boss takes him and a group of others to a whiskey distiller in the Scottish highlands where they find out about a rare barrel of whiskey being put up for auction. Robbie then comes up with a plan to steal the whiskey so he can make a better life for his family.
The Angels’ Share won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and it’s easy to see why. It has a warmheartedness that’s widely appealing and a sense of humour (and style of speaking) that’s distinctly Scottish, giving it a real sense of identity. It’s populated mainly with relatively inexperienced actors and occasionally that shows (and hurts) the movie, but overall their interactions are enjoyable to watch. And Laverty’s script makes fantastic, realistic use of swearing which, if that’s your sort of comedy, will have you chuckling away throughout.
The film falters in the third act when it decides it wants to be an odd local version of Ocean’s Eleven as the whiskey scheming goes beyond wishful thinking and into practise. It loses the everyday banter quality that makes the first hour so entertaining and ultimately chooses thick sentiment over all else. This clunky mixture, excuse the pun, doesn’t quite allow it to come together as a complete package.
Having said that, when it works The Angels’ Share really works, showcasing a sweetness that’s rare in movies these days. Scots should get the most out of the humour but there’s a human authenticity to it that should appeal to others as well. Worth seeing for its heart as well as its funny bone.
The Angels’ Share is out in UK cinemas on June 1st.