The Angels’ Share – Film Review

 

As explained in the film, the meaning behind the title The Angel’s Share sounded so whimsical I had to look it up.  It’s for real and it means this:  Each year, two percent of whiskey aging in oak barrels simply evaporates.  The two percent that floats off into the atmosphere is known as the angels’ share.  Evidently, it’s a genuine industry expression.

In the new Ken Loach comedy/drama The Angels’ Share, a troubled young man from Glasgow, Scotland narrowly misses a prison sentence and instead is ordered to complete several hours of community service.  Robbie (Paul Brannigan) meets up with a small rag-tag gang of other troubled Glaswegians and together they plan what they think is the perfect crime – robbing a distillery in Edinburgh of a ridiculously over-priced cask of perfect whiskey.  The amount they take will never be missed; it’s the angels’ share.

 

In 1970 director Loach made one of the truly great films of the British cinema; Kes.  Today, it is listed by the British Film Institute as one of the 50 films that you should see before the age of 14.  I’ve seen it so many times I can quote scenes line by line throughout.  If you know anything of the socially conscious Ken Loach you know that the cinematic journey you are about to take could well be a rough ride.  He brings a naturalistic, down-to-earth quality to everything he makes.  He’s the social realist of modern cinema.  Having said that, films like The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Poor Cow, and Riff-Raff pull no punches when depicting working-class life in the British Isles, and for mainstream American audiences they’re tough sells, which is why The Angels’ Share is such a pleasant surprise.

The grit of daily life on the streets of working-class Glasgow is still depicted in all its realism, the rough language is still in place and the odd moments of unpleasant, head-banging violence are there, but there’s a surprisingly light feel to the whole affair which keeps you constantly amused and, dare I say it, enamored with these young Scottish knuckleheads. 

 

Glasgow’s real sense of identity is evident despite the light touch, and the depiction of the young and uneducated stuck in a depressing cycle of unemployment is very much in the forefront, but the film has a sense of humor that might make you laugh louder than most regular comedies of late and can’t fail to win you over.

 

The accents are thick to the point where foreign ears may have trouble distinguishing words, but to the credit of the American distributors they haven’t done what they did to the Scottish comedy Gregory’s Girl back in 1981.  With Gregory’s Girl, the film was re-dubbed stateside to make the sound of the Scottish accents softer and easier to understand.  By doing this, the film lost its comic edge and much of what sounded funny overseas fell flat in American theatres.  This time they’ve done what they should have done in 1981; they’ve subtitled the film and left the dialog alone. The uncompromising Glaswegian accents are intact, and the whole thing works wonderfully.

 MPAA rating:  Unrated    Length: 106 minutes   Overall Rating:  7 (out of 10)

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