Set in Glasgow – and thank heavens for the German subtitles – Ken Loach introduces us to his ensemble cast one at a time in the courtroom, where each is convicted of a ridiculous crime. Shown in flashback, each violation is more absurd than the last. Subsequently sentenced to various terms of community service instead of prison, the perpetrators then pile into a van driven by Harry (John Henshaw), the project supervisor. Thus begins an offbeat heist comedy featuring the above delinquents, who pull off a very unlikely – and inspired – bit of larceny.
Winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, THE ANGELS’ SHARE is a true delight. The main protagonist is Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a young hooligan and brand new father, stuck between a rock and a hard place: a long-standing family feud makes it almost impossible for him to escape the violence which surrounds him. But his luck is about to change. Doing community service instead of jail time puts him in Harry’s charge. And Harry is a big-hearted man with a passion – single malt whisky. After an outing at a distillery, where Harry has taken his charges for the day, he discovers that Robbie has a “nose” for whisky. At which point Harry takes the young man under his wing and sets about cultivating his talents.
It is at a whisky-tasting event in a remote Highlands distillery shortly thereafter that Robbie and his cohorts (Rhino, Mo and Albert) learn that the only remaining cask of a very pricy single malt is to be sold at auction. Even one bottle of this extraordinary brew is worth a fortune. Thus, Robbie sets about finding a buyer in advance and concocts a harebrained scheme to siphon off just enough to make a difference – and give the lads a fresh start. The coup is somewhat implausible, but Loach and writer Laverty have you rooting for the rogues despite the crime and notwithstanding their violent backgrounds. Do they get away with it? I won’t spoil it for you.
In case you are curious about the title, the “Angel’s Share” is that small amount of whisky, approx. 1.5-2%, lost per year to evaporation resulting from the aging process.
THE ANGELS’ SHARE (UK/France/Belgium/Italy 2012; UK Distributor: Entertainment One (release date: June 1, 2012); German title: THE ANGELS’ SHARE – Ein Schluck für die Engel; Distributor: Prokino Filmverleih (release date: October 18, 2012); Running time: 101 mins; Director: Ken Loach; Writer: Paul Laverty; Cast: Paul Brannigan, Siobhan Reilly, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, William Ruane, Jasmin Riggins