You can always count on distillers for a lyrical turn of phrase. In their parlance, the vintage whiskey lost in the barrel to evaporation is called the “angels’ share.” It is hard to anticipate how much those angels will partake. This opens the door for an unlikely scheme in Ken Loach’s working-class comedy “The Angels’ Share.”
Robbie has a temper and a pregnant girlfriend. The former almost gets him sent to prison, but the latter helps keep him out. Sentenced to community service, Robbie falls under the supervision of Harry, an understanding middle-aged volunteer.
Through Harry’s friendship, Robbie discovers he has a nose, if not necessarily a taste, for fine malt whiskey. He also learns of an upcoming auction of one of the rarest vintages ever distilled in Scotland. With the dubious assistance of three losers from his community service, Robbie intends to nick a bit of the angels’ share.
The widely accessible “Share” follows in the tradition of Loach’s “Looking for Eric.” It is a crowd-pleasing comedy, but it remains faithful to the filmmaker’s proletarian aesthetic.
Indeed, Loach takes his time, establishing his characters and their lack of prospects before launching into the caper. Yet, it is nowhere near as didactic as his socialist social issues dramas, which is a major reason why “Share” is so much more entertaining.
While looking the part of a troubled young man, Paul Brannigan has genuine screen presence as Robbie. The audience can sense there is a real fire within him, in both good and bad ways.
John Henshaw is also quite appealingly down-to-earth and humane as Harry. Veteran character actor Roger Allam (recognizable from “Endeavour,” “The Thick of It,” and “Parade’s End”) adds a welcome splash of roguish sophistication as the mysterious whiskey broker, Thaddeus.
Unfortunately, Robbie’s three co-conspirators largely come across like recycled stock characters from previous Loach films. But even at their most exaggerated, they cannot undermine the film’s charm.
The stakes are considerable and the milieu is rather grim throughout “Share.” Yet, it is an enormously satisfying, perfectly titled film. A “feel-good movie” does not adequately describe it. “Feel giddy” comes closer.
Naturalistic yet uplifting and consistently funny, “The Angels’ Share” is enthusiastically recommended for general audiences even more than Loach’s usual admirers.
Ken Loach’s ‘The Angels’ Share’
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Roger Allam
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit http://jbspins.blogspot.com