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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'The Angels' Share', whiskey redemption

The Angels' Share

Kind of a shocker, here comes what can easily qualifies as the most comedic and upbeat movie in Ken Loach's filmography (teaming up again with screenwriter Paul Laverty). 'The Angels' Share' is a warmth, mostly gentle (with a couple of punches here and there punctuating the harsh social background of the fun) and good-natured comedy, even careless at times for such a serious duo. And despite it certainly won't rank among the most memorable works of the maestro's career, it's hard not to love this joyful tale of redemption... and whiskey.

Set in Scotland (careful with the accents) Loach points the viewer out to a bunch of outcasts (drunks, ruffians, pickpocketers) and their summary of minor (or not so) felonies, recited by a judge. Then he focuses the camera in the story of Robbie (stunning performance by previously unknown actor Paul Brannigan) who is in the verge of confronting a most-demanding crossroad in his life. He has a prison record, as well as a violent and drug-addiction past. He has been sentenced to community services, in what it looks like the very last chance to reintegrate into society. And he is more than willing to do so, because he is also about to become a father. He is determined to reform himself and behave responsible, but like a local, 'scoundrel' version of those sub-genre mafia movies in which the hero can really put away his past, it seems all odds are against Robbie.

Loach plays tricks with us at first. Yeah, there are slices of comedy in the secondary characters, a bunch of hilarious roughnecks, with whom Robbie is paying his dues with society. But the scenes are packed with our leading character's constant attempt to avoid the violence (or death) that threatens him (from the Clancy's, the family he got into the serious "incident" that ended at court, seeking for vengeance, as well as the family of his girlfriend, wanting him to leave the town and disappear from her life), while the possibilities of finding a job seems the tiniest. There's even a brutal scene when Robbie has to face the family and the victim of his most despicable moment as a human being. Everything looks like a Loach-by-the-numbers movie with some oddballs in the form of risible, entirely diverting characters. But this time, the veteran director wants to believe in redemption and second chances as well as the kindness of mankind. Even if its in an almost surreal way... 

Because it's true, you really have to make several concessions, some more than remarkable, with the plot development to keep it going once 'The Angels' Share' becomes a very unusual and amusing kind-of-thriller, with Robbie discovering he has a gift (better said, a nose) for whiskey and a bizarre opportunity to make some money, maybe even a path to start from zero a new, peaceful life, appears. But by then, the charm of characters, the genuine quality of their performances, the awkward friendship among the leading quartet has won you completely. The adventure involving an almost-mythical malt, a glimpse of jet-set (an obvious punch to highest classes willing to waste their money in stupid competitions for status) and ambitious, pretty obscure collector is blatantly flat from a realistic standpoint of view. But we, as viewers, couldn't care less. Robbie, Albert, Rhino and Mo HAVE to make it.  

Because even in its lightweight hour, Ken Loach's movies have something not many directors have. It's the heart, man. Shown in the arresting character of Harry (John Henshaw), the misfits minder, relentless to help and care for them. Willing to give them a chance. Even it that chance has the form (what a simple, perfect, moving final scene) of a bottle of whisky. It's the heart. For the real, common people. Thank you, again, Ken.

SCORE: 6,75/10

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