Glasgow, Scotland is the setting for this flavorful gimmicky, if not fully fermented collaboration between working-class, sided thoughtful director Ken Loach and scenarist Paul Laverty (The Wind That Shakes The Barley).
The Angels' Share (connected to the loss of whiskey from distillation) stars Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, and Siobhan Reilly, incorporates a certain asperity from stereotypes to nicely round out a pat crowd pleaser from the optimistic, if sometimes too-idealistic outlook of a second chance.
A gritty, foreboding documentary-like realism is established early on from the effect of violent impulses before navigating into social drama, teetering through taut caper as well as witty slapstick.
The story around Brannigan's thuggish Robbie somehow avoiding extended incarceration in exchange for community service under the watch of Henshaw's Harry lets the characters, issues, and settings realistically kick in like a whiskey tasting.
When Robbie's girlfriend (Reilly) is about to give him a son, it seems that's the impetus, as well as the benevolent Harry showing a single-malt brand, to a more hopeful less loathing existence. His colleagues, played by Gary Maitland, William Ruane and Jasmin Riggins (as a kleptomaniac) with comedic verve are into this process which he becomes good at. Then, a connection to whiskey financier Thaddeus (Roger Allam) has Harry now planning to finally let go of his tumultuous past.
This all shamelessly and subtly unfolds maybe not with the cohesion Loach's admirers come to expect from him and a prickly way to release one's darker inhibitions. Yet, the diligent, absorbing auteur again works in methodical, cyclical fashion with his craft contributors (notably to make the authentic Scottish locales stand out) to make the payoff oddly poignant.
Through the very appealing Brannigan much empathy comes by way of Paul's outlook on his changing family situation as well his regard for Harry. Not to mention an affecting confrontation from a terrible assault as well as a meaningful flashback to character and underlying message. Along with the developing fellowship which for many will call to mind at times the milieu in the movie-turned-musical, The Full Monty.
Ultimately, light is shed on something not often captured on screen ultimately leading to a rare cask of a traditional Scottish spirit. With Loach, Laverty, and a sound, sobering Brannigan in the driver seat, it's hard not to share in the enjoyment of an Angels' ebullience.
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