“The angels’ share is a poetic expression for the small quantity of Scotch whiskey that evaporates through the sides of the cask during maturation,” explains the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin. “It is something that time takes away from us for the very best of reasons; a welcome loss in the long, dark process of improvement. It is also the name of Ken Loach’s smokily satisfying new comedy; the sole British contender for the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year. It is a crime caper set on the west coast of Scotland, complex on the palate but with a lasting toasty finish, and framed by one of the social realist, working class narratives that Loach has made his trademark. Imagine Compton Mackenzie had written Sweet Sixteen and you’ll be on the right track.”
“The Angels’ Share is Loach at his most playful and invigorating,” writes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent. “Even if it does evoke memories of Whisky Galore, this isn’t exactly an Ealing comedy. The early scenes are set against a backdrop of unemployment, poverty and petty crime…. Newcomer Paul Brannigan plays Robbie, a young father with a criminal record and an ongoing feud against a local family. His girlfriend’s father doesn’t want him anywhere near her or the baby. If he is to have any chance of seeing them, he needs to prove he can provide for them. The one man with any trust in him is Harry (John Henshaw), who runs the community service scheme on which Robbie has been placed after his latest brush with the law. Harry introduces him to the world of professional malt whisky tasting, thereby providing him with an unlikely chance of redemption.”
And “he winds up, through a series of events too belabored to recount here, becoming a whisky connoisseur and teaming up with three fellow community-service miscreants to steal a cask of the rarest and most valuable spirit in the world, in the hope of starting a new life elsewhere with the proceeds.” Mike D’Angelo at the AV Club: “All preposterous, of course, and we’re talking here about a movie that e.g. sets a road-trip montage to the Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ as if nobody ever thought of that before, but there are plenty of laughs, a host of vivid performances, and some genuinely fascinating details about the world of real alcohol snobs.” Ultimately, “it’s the Glaswegian specificity that makes this contrived heist comedy mildly enjoyable; like many Loach films, it’s subtitled in English despite being spoken in English, so impenetrably coarse and colorful is the dialogue.”
Overall, the story takes us “from a world of court cases, dust-ups in stairwells, street chases and knife fights to a different universe of jokey neds in kilts and rarefied folk discussing single malts,” writes Dave Calhoun in Time Out London. “It’s a jarring shift, and this isn’t the best paced or most focused of Loach films at the best of the times…. But it’s still rewarding to see [Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty] exploring a different tone with their usual compassion and eye for youthful characters, even if we’re sometimes left in a frustrating middle ground between the more comic and serious sides of their story.”
“Loach often stages scenes in a gentle, almost quietist way, certainly compared to the way contemporary television drama has to be supercharged with force,” writes the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “Some may find the tendons of the story a little slack occasionally, but for me Loach and Laverty are speaking with an engaging dramatic voice…. If Ron Howard had been in charge, there would have been much more disapproval of Robbie’s working-class appearance and more of a gasp at his Rain Man brilliance. Loach gives us something much more understated and real.”
“Loach doesn’t want his viewers to take his new film seriously beyond a certain point, and that self-limiting quality makes The Angels’ Share‘s light-hearted but dim-witted comedy feel that much more dissatisfying,” finds Simon Abrams, writing at the Playlist. More from Leslie Felperin (Variety), Allan Hunter (Screen) and Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa).
In the Telegraph, Anita Singh tells the unlikely true story of the transformation of Paul Brannigan from “ex-young offender with no money, no job and no hope of a bright future” to the lead actor in a film competing in Cannes. And you can listen to the press conference here.
Update, 5/26: IndieWIRE‘s Peter Knegt reports that Sundance Selects has picked up US rights.
Update, 5/29: The film’s won the Prix du Jury. And the BBC gets a few words with Loach.
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