The Angels’ Share– Movie Review
The Angels’ Share, a UK dramedy about a violent ex-con trying to go straight, opens on a bumbling drunk falling onto train tracks as a locomotive approaches. “This is God,” the unseen station agent proclaims over the loudspeaker, before launching into an obscenity-laced tirade urging the man to get his a** off the tracks. It’s a hilarious, nerve-wracking, and thought-provoking little fable about fate, free will, and the consequences of our actions; and it’s the perfect opening to one of the most honest, funny, and heartwarming films I’ve seen in a long time.
Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a young Scottish drug addict and petty criminal, has just narrowly avoided years of jail time, become a father, and resolved to make something of himself, despite the numerous thugs trying to drag him back into the dirt. Robbie befriends his social worker (John Henshaw), who introduces Robbie to whiskey tastings, where Robbie discovers he has a talent for analyzing fine spirits. While pursuing a legitimate path to working at a distillery, Robbie and his bumbling group of ex-con friends learn that the world’s most valuable cask of whiskey will soon be sold- and they realize stealing just a few bottles worth could set them for life. But getting caught would mean losing everything Robbie has worked towards.
I initially rolled my eyes when I read the synopsis, and saw the well-worn trope of a criminal trying go legit for his newborn child. But Angels’ Share really makes it work by not sugarcoating Robbie’s past or future. The chemistry between Robbie and his girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) is convincing, but she makes clear that she will not tolerate putting her son in danger, and will raise him alone if that is for the best.
At the same time, a scene where Robbie is forced to confront the family of a man he almost killed not only graphically illustrates his violence, but is crucial for two trajectories: it forces Robbie to see his victim as someone’s child and recognize the enormity of his crime, and to recognize what being a parent means and recognize the enormity of his responsibility.
If this all sounds heavy, it is amply lightened by Robbie’s friends, a group of drunks and kleptomaniacs who don’t know what the Mona Lisa is or are prone to chugging spit-up whiskey, but who still help him get ahead with their unique talents.
Did you The Angels’ Share? What did you think?