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Sunday, 21 April 2013 13:16

'The Angels' Share' delivers no angelic fare

'The Angels' Share' delivers no angelic fare
Written by Diane Carson
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Ricocheting through events, "The Angels' Share" introduces the main characters through their appearances in Glasgow's criminal court on assorted charges: theft, drugs, drunkenness, and assault. Last to be judged and the story's anchor, Robbie Emmerson harbors an anger management problem but also loves Leonie, pregnant but with a thuggish family who loathes Robbie.

All of this sets the scene for a circuitous but also satisfying, episodic story. Shot on location primarily in Glasgow and secondarily in Edinburgh, it features director Ken Loach's favorite subjects--those on the margins of society. Implicitly he asks, what do young adults do without personal or public support? The answer is: find trouble unless an opportunity presents itself.

As an alternative to prison, Robbie must complete 300 hours of community payback, working alongside Albert, Rhino, and Mo under Harry's supervision. Conscientious but savvy, Harry takes them to a distillery and this becomes the thread that leads to hijinks with a fair amount of information about malt whiskey thrown in--its production and its auctioning of an extremely valuable cask. Loach also plays with Scottish stereotypes, especially kilts.

Loach keeps cinematographer Robbie Ryan's camera from calling attention to itself, George Fenton's music in service to the story, and Jonathan Morris' editing brisk. Still it's the unconventional characters who command attention with Paul Brannigan as Robbie the most natural of actors--unselfconscious through events that include humorous moments alternating with conflict. Subtitles save the heavy Glasgow accent from being unintelligible at times, though the language is often crude, including regular curses and at least one truly repulsive act.

The title "The Angels' Share" refers to the 2% of whiskey that evaporates each year from casks during whiskey's aging.  It also might identify an ineffable quality of Loach's films--there's something that escapes exact measurement in his suggesting more than meets the eye. Observing daily events, he creates a rich, full-fledged community, on the fringes of society and all the more captivating for its distinctive features. At a Landmark Theatre.

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