The Angels’ Share
Written by Paul Laverty
Directed by Ken Loach
The choice of Ken Loach’s The Angels’ Share as this year’s Opening Gala Film was a surprise to me. Usually the festival kicks off with a homegrown film – last year it was Halifax’s own Roller Town, the year before that, Score: A Hockey Musical, both ultra-Canadian. This year, the festival went a different route, choosing a film by an English director, set in the heart of Scotland. But, as Programming Manager Andrew Murphy assured the audience before the film, “There’s plenty to relate to for us Nova Scotians. It’s set in Scotland…and it’s about smuggling booze.”
The film centers on reforming thug Robbie (Paul Brannigan), who tries his hardest to stay on the straight and narrow after avoiding a jail sentence. With the help of a friendly community service supervisor, he discovers where his talents lie – in whiskey – and he devises an elaborate whiskey smuggling scheme to help him start a new life.
The Angels’ Share is far more overtly comedic and light than any of Loach’s other films, certainly the ones I have seen. Though it features several “tough” scenes in which remnants of Robbie’s old life threatens to destroy his efforts at bettering himself, for the most part, the stakes of this film are relatively low. We never truly think he’s in danger, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Though it doesn’t belong up there with Loach’s best, this is nevertheless a fun little flick that goes by fast and will have you laughing all the way through. And if nothing else, some of the scenery of the Scottish highlands is nothing short of breathtaking.