THE ANGELS’ SHARE (Ken Loach). 101 minutes. Opens Friday (May 17). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN
Despite winning the Jury Prize at Cannes last year, The Angels' Share is regarded as one of Ken Loach's lesser efforts. It's not particularly angry or political. But as someone who finds the venerated social realist's more respectable works increasingly didactic and tin-eared, I consider this one a pleasant change of pace.
Loach and his regular screenwriter Paul Laverty pass up a glum lecture on the state of world affairs (like their last collaboration, Route Irish) for a charming character study of Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a remorseful Glasgow thug whose efforts to turn his life around lead him and his community-service pals into the unlikely hobby of whisky appreciation.
It's similar in tone and spirit to Loach's 1991 Riff-Raff, which found low comedy in the flailing efforts of construction workers to better themselves - and also focused on the mentorship of an ex-con by a genial authority figure. (In this one, it's John Henshaw who turns Robbie on to the joys of sipping the good stuff.)
Slipping back and forth between drama and comedy, The Angels' Share initially seems shaggy and unstructured, but that's part of its appeal. Loach and Laverty nudge the story delicately and without much fuss, trusting the actors to provide the necessary emotional weight.
Turns out that's all they really need.