After reading law at Oxford and dipping his toes in experimental theatre, England’s Ken Loach started directing films that looked with intense sympathy at Britain’s working class. The celebrated auteur of Riff-Raff and Raising Stones has never swerved from his “socialist realist” agenda and never been courted by Hollywood. So even though his latest project, The Angels’ Share, qualifies as a comedic caper film, Loach deftly balances brutality with whimsy while setting his story in a grittily realistic milieu of poverty, violence, and despair.
The film opens, drolly, in a Glasgow courtroom, where several 20-something ne’er do wells are sentenced to 180 hours of community service doing jobs like cleaning defaced gravestones. Their supervisor, Harry, is a kindly bloke, and he takes a compassionate interest in Robbie, who has committed violent crimes but is trying to turn his life around now that he’s just become a father. That’s not good enough for his girlfriend’s father and brothers who, early in the film, beat the crap out of Robbie to get him to abandon the relationship.
Harry, long a fan of Scotch whisky, takes his work crew on a distillery tour in order to imbue his scruffy charges with some national pride. It turns out that Robbie has a gifted palate for Scotch, and soon he’s sipping single malts with savvy discernment. Then the chance discovery of a long-lost cask of “perfect” whisky that is expected to sell for a million pounds at auction gives the flat-broke lad a clever idea. Backed up by three friends, the larcenous libationist engineers a clever scam to fool the Scotch world’s greedy merchants and collectors.
If it works, Robbie and his pals have a chance to escape the sinkhole of poverty they’ve been trapped in all their lives. Or else it’s off to prison for a very long time.
The film’s title refers to the two per cent per year evaporation that happens to whisky as it ages in oak barrels. Without going into more plot details, just imagine that those angels have to share a bit with devilish pranksters. Harsh, funny, and poignant with a top note of sweet sentiment, Share is a heady film with appeal for cineastes and tipplers alike.
The Angel’s Share ★★★½
Directed by Ken Loach
Starring Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw and Gary Maitland
R -101 minutes
June 8-July 4 at UVic’s Cinecenta
Let’s celebrate a great film with a distinguished Scotch, the Peat Monster. This is from the impressive boutique company Compass Box, who aren’t distillers themselves but buyers of selected small lots of malt whisky, which they blend to great effect (a so-called vatted malt). Their brooding Monster is sourced mostly from Islay, and has all the smoke and peat you’d ever want, alongside hints of sea salt and sweet malt. With good balance and sufficient complexity to keep you intrigued to the end of your dram (you may want two), this is a grand tipple and well priced at $89. Available at the Strath, on Douglas Street.
This multiple award-winner about a misfit teenager whose Goth style makes him a target is must-see viewing according to Movie Monday’s Bruce Saunders. Showing at MM on July 8.
Much Ado About Nothing
The hip and versatile Joss Wheedon (Avengers, Toy Story) has been getting great reviews for his sexy, modern-setting version of Shakespeare’s great comedy about romantic misunderstanding.
Helen Mirren, John Malkovitch, Bruce Willis, and Mary-Louise Parker reprise their roles as retired CIA “black ops” agents marked for death by their own agency. Silly, sure, but expect this black comedy to be elevated by sly dialogue and killer performances.
Celebrated German director Margarethe von Trotta directs this gripping account of philosopher Hannah Arendt, focusing on the moral complexity at the heart of her coverage of the war-crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann. Showing at Cinecenta, July 21-25.
Read Robert Moyes every Friday in your Black Press community newspaper and get updated film listings and reviews online at mondaymag.com.