The Angels' Share

Four friends. One Mission. Lots of spirit.

The angels’ share is a poetic expression for the small quantity of Scotch whisky that evaporates through the sides of the cask during maturation. 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.

Poster art for The Angels' ShareIt is also the name of Ken Loach’s smokily satisfying new comedy, 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.

Screen newcomer Paul Brannigan is a wholly convincing 20-something muddle of wisecracks and frustrations as Robbie, one of a group of young offenders who work in a court-mandated ‘community payback scheme’ supervised by the jocular foreman Harry (Loach regular John Henshaw).

Much like his fellow hoodlums, Rhino (William Ruane), Albert (Gary Maitland) and Mo (Jasmin Riggins), Robbie is a Saltire-waving, chest-beating Scot, but has no meaningful connection to the land or culture he claims to love. For him, whisky is just an effective way of making Coca-Cola alcoholic, and he pronounces ceilidh ‘seelick’.

But when Harry offers him a dram of a rare single malt to celebrate the birth of his son, Robbie has a very literal spiritual epiphany. He and his friends twig that the proceeds from a single barrel of the stuff, liberated from a sleepy highland distillery, would give all four of them enough money to clear their debts and start afresh. Behind Harry’s back, a plan starts to take shape.

Loach and his regular screenwriter Paul Laverty won the Palme d’or in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes The Barley, but this is a subtler, less inflammatory piece. Laverty, who grew up in Glasgow, and Loach’s cast have a fine ear for the trickling, glugging rhythms of modern Scots, scorching expletives and all. Every scene is a pleasure to listen to; many are also knee-slappingly funny. This is British comedy at its warmest and most pleasurable; cask strength, unfiltered and neat.

– Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph

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