Thrusting us in to the lower echelons of the social ladder, The Angels’ Share introduces audiences to a small group of young offenders as they embark on their shared experience of rehabilitation and community work within Glasgow. While we are initially made privy to their misdemeanours, we are also shown another side where these social outcasts are able to build up rapport and respect between each other and between those who to try and help them.
The story mainly focuses on one of these undesirables, a young man by the name of Robbie (Paul Brannigan). To say he has a chequered past is an understatement, and we are soon made to know that he has a rap sheet as long as your arm. With Fatherhood quickly approaching however, Robbie is desperate to clean up his life and release himself from the wicked spiral of crime and drugs.
Making this decision is one thing, while actually accomplishing the transformation is another, especially when faced with little career prospects, no family and even his girlfriend’s Father despising him to the extreme of beating him up.
The only person willing to offer Robbie a show of sympathy and encouragement is his social worker Harry (John Henshaw). After witnessing Robbie fall victim to a cruel beating, Harry offers brief refuge and invites him back to his place to hang out and force upon him his interest in Whiskey.
Robbie straight away shows a good nose for the beverage and following a treat by Harry to take the group of offenders on a day visit to a whiskey distillery, Robbie devises a plan which could make him and his friends rich beyond their wildest dreams, and provide the opportunity to live outside the squalor they have grown accustomed to.
Although we learn about Robbie’s previous dealings with the law, including an appalling unprovoked assault for which he spent time in a young offender’s institute, we are not forced to focus on assessing whether we should feel sorry for a man who has himself made other people’s lives a misery. Instead, we are presented with how merit can be found in people who do the wrong things but for the right reasons. We are also shown how money can mean so much to the people who don’t have it and very little to people who have a lot of it.
Throw in to the mix well dispersed comedy, the typical independent feel found from Ken Loach films, and a grounded sense of un-Hollywood like inner city poverty, and the film as a whole is a thoroughly entertaining and raw take on bad boy trying to do his best to become good.
A special mention must also go to Gary Maitland who plays the hilarious and butt of all jokes Albert. His character is certainly inconsistent with his profound lack of knowledge on any subject and general stupidity, especially when compared with his sudden ability to deliver helpful topical device with faultless articulation. That being said, the character does not fail to get a laugh on screen, and this not only allows for a release from the albeit light hearted grittiness, but also helps to make the group of characters as a whole more endearing.
The film is labelled as a comedy but it offers so much more. Although inaccurately compared in the British press to the loveable Full Monty, it does share many of the same qualities by keeping the story moving, providing engrossing dialogue and bringing out relatively stunning performances from little or previous well known actors; this is in fact Brannigan’s first ever movie role after being spotted by Loach working as a youth worker in Glasgow.
At no point does The Angels’ Share feels rushed, and upon leaving the cinema it is hard to not feel a sense of uplifting and feel good factor. In some quarters the film has been made favourite to win the much coveted Palm D’or at this year’s festival. It’s small budget and un-blockbuster like quality could conversely go against its chances of winning the award, but I for one would look forward to seeing this again and it justices all the praise which has already started coming its way.
A funny and engaging look at how within the criminal world of UK based relative poverty, ingenuity and the desperation to escape the enveloping anomie can drive people to extreme lengths.