An exhaustingly entertaining comedy drama, The Angel’s Share is a story of young offenders discovering second chances in the world of whisky. It comes as no surprise that the film was recently awarded the Jury Prize at this year Cannes Film Festival and has a shockingly high 93 per cent rating on popular critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The pairing of director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty produces a story that is a perfect balance of social realism and pure wit, a story of redemption, surprises, and seemingly improbable miracles.
The Angel’s Share is about Robbie, a Glaswegian hoodlum and petty offender, who is seeking to escape the self-perpetuating cycle of problems that his life has become. Having narrowly avoided a long prison sentence, Robbie struggles as he faces mandatory community service while having to deal with the birth of his newborn son. Low on cash but rich with conflict, Robbie is unable to provide the better life for his girlfriend and their child that he so desperately seeks. However, his prospects begin to rapidly change upon his introduction to the benevolent and tireless community service leader, Harry. Fortunately, the film bucks the conservative tradition of films about troubled young men and their disciplined mentors with a surprisingly novel denouement: Harry takes Robbie on a trip to a whisky distillery, imbuing in Robbie a mature appreciation for the spirit that illuminates the path to a new life. A friendship of solidarity and trust quickly grows between Robbie and his four young co-offenders as they embark on a journey of new beginnings.
The film left me gripped by the tantalizing fear of the impending unknown fate of the characters that I so quickly became partial to. Indeed, I was not alone, for it seemed the entire audience became a collective whole, with synchronized reactions to the film; we all clung to the unknown, but hopefully fortunate, future of the characters. This story of friendship and second chances won over the audience, and certainly me as well. I was enthralled with the heart-wrenching harmony of great directing and cinematography. It’s rare to see a film that renders the hearts of its viewers so enamoured and effusive.
Aside from the well-timed one-liners, Scottish humour, and beautiful landscape, the cinematography exceeded expectations, helping to contextualize the raging reviews and rapidly spreading ratings. Ken Loach mastered the use of colour, artificial and natural lighting, and digital grain. For avid film, photography, and visual arts die-hards this is an orgasmic visual experience.
The Angel’s Share is fundamentally an exploration of what one would do to have a second chance. The film takes a well-worn genre and weaves a new narrative through humour and a plot line – without revealing too much – involving an expensive whisky, a daring ploy, and kilts. Yes, kilts. Upon leaving the theatre, I was convinced that the film has the power to win anyone over, including the most critical pessimists. After all, who wouldn’t love a story of friendship, struggle, and million-dollar whisky?