By Mary Brodbin
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The Angels’ Share

This article is over 9 years, 7 months old
Director Ken Loach
Release date: 1 June
Issue 370

I was briefly kettled by the French police as I attempted to get to the press showing of Ken Loach’s new film The Angels’ Share – unable to move as the police allowed a small and painfully slow trickle of the well-heeled and high-heeled to trip their way towards the famous red carpet.

Ken Loach’s new film, set in Glasgow, is of course a world apart. The opening shots introduce the film’s main characters who range, somewhat quaintly, from Mo, who has stolen a multi-coloured parrot from a pet shop to Albert who is up for drunkenly playing chicken with an oncoming train and Rhino caught riding a bronze statue of a horse with a traffic cone on its head.

The main character, Robbie (fantastically played by non-professional Paul Brannigan), is up on a much more serious charge. He is involved in a tit for tat family feud and caught up in a cycle of violence, criminality and long-term unemployment.

Because he is soon to become a father the judge lets him off prison and he ends up on community service, tending cemeteries and painting community halls where he befriends Mo, Albert and Rhino – all supervised by Harry, a kindly Mancunian who tries to see the best in his clients, and who outside of work is a scotch whisky connoisseur.

On his day off Harry packs his charges into a van and heads for a whisky distillery deep in the countryside. At the visitors’ centre they are given a tour where they learn that the poetically named “angels’ share” is the two percent of whisky in a cask that evaporates every year.

Mo manages to nick some samples and Robbie holds his own tasting in his Glasgow squat.

Their next trip with Harry is to a whisky tasting in Edinburgh where, mixing with Californian and Japanese connoisseurs, Robbie once again shows his finely tuned palate. He also learns that a cask of the finest whisky ever produced is going to public auction and is set to raise a million pounds but where it is to be held is a closely guarded secret. Mo, of course, manages to nick the details off the organiser’s desk.

They set off for the secret location plotting to liberate two percent of the magic liquor (after all it is only the equivalent of the angels’ share) and the proceeds will help finance Robbie and his pals’ chance to turn their lives around.

The Angels’ Share is billed as a mix of feelgood comic caper and gritty social realism, but there’s more than a touch of Enid Blyton as the group dressed in kilts head for the Highlands to pitch their tent outside the distillery taking along supplies of sandwiches and lashings of Irn-Bru.

There are some good one-liners, but also a fair share of jokes about vomit and farting, many at the expense of foolish Albert, who keeps up a running commentary on his aching testicles. The well-worn cliche about Scotsmen wearing no underwear beneath their kilts is also dragged out.

Ken Loach is back in Cannes for the eleventh time, having won the Palme d’Or in 2006 with The Wind That Shakes the Barley. There are 22 films in the competition and the international critics at Cannes give a good average of 2.5 out of 5 stars for Loach’s latest offering.

Socialist Review will go to press before the winner of the Palme d’Or is announced but I would hazard a guess that Loach won’t make it this time – it’s too fairy-tale to be meaningful and the humour too laboured by half.

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