Star rating – 9/10
I was really looking to forward to the latest Ken Loach film, being a massive fan of his work. And The Angels’ Share does not disappoint. It blends a touch more comedy than some of his earlier works, with that gritty social realism and fierce political commentary that he is so admired for. And it fully deserves the Cannes Jury Prize it was recently awarded.
Lots of the hallmark Loach ingredients are here – the use of non professionals as his actors to transmit the brutality of being at the bottom of the social pile; and eternal hope for something better. Paul Brannigan is outstanding as Robbie, who has escaped a custodial sentence for a cocaine-fuelled brutal attack on an innocent teenager, largely due to the fact that his girlfriend is pregnant, and he is desperate to be given one last chance for his unborn child.
As so often in life his luck turns when he encounters Harry, his community sentence supervisor with a heart of gold, who stands by him and believes in him. John Henshaw, as impressive here as he consistently is, plays the whisky loving Harry. In a part that can be compared to Colin Welland’s school teacher in Kes, he takes Robbie and a few of his fellow offenders to a whisky tasting event, and Robbie turns out to have a nose for the stuff.
What follows is more of an Ealing comedy caper, as Robbie et al plot to turn the situation to their advantage. But danger and violence is only ever a heartbeat away, as Robbie struggles to break away from his background. But the laughs are genuine, and extremely funny. And there is a lovely turn from the fabulous Roger Allam as a whisky collector who is not adverse to a spot of collaboration himself.
This is a heartbreaking, hilarious and heart warming film – not something every director can pull off, but Loach just gets better with age, like the fine whisky he showcases here.