Review: The Angels’ Share


Director:Ken Loach

Cast:Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, William Ruane, Roger Allam

Running Time:101 Minutes


Even at age 76, veteran director Ken Loach has been able to stay in touch with his youth. In films such as Sweet Sixteen (2002) and the seminal Kes (1969), he tells highly relatable stories about young men on the brink, searching for meaning in a society that seems to have no use for them. Though The Angels' Share features a similarly hopeless protagonist, it features a much brighter ending for him.

Without giving too much away, let me just say that The Angels' Share, despite its bursts of violence, is an absolute delight. Loach and his frequent collaborator Paul Laverty give it a deft blend of comedy and drama, and the whole cast gives authentic performances.

Paul Brannigan plays Robbie, a violent drug addict who uses the judge's mercy and his new fatherhood to start on a better path. Instead of a lengthy jail sentence, Robbie is sentenced to 300 hours of community service. The head of the program (John Henshaw) looks after him, becoming his friend and teaching him the joys of whiskey, which must be sipped and enjoyed, instead of gulped like Robbie's preferred malt liquor.

Although Robbie appreciates life more, he still faces a rough life. An old school bully, upset that their last confrontation didn't result in Robbie's incarceration, is out for revenge. His father-in-law offers him a large sum of money to simply leave town and abandon his responsibilities. But with his fellow convicts, he forms a support system and matures into, if not a productive member of society, at least someone who can keep his self-destructive instincts at bay.

One of the many things I love about the film is how leisurely each scene plays out, with minimal editing. Characters in Loach films talk a lot but never to the point of irritation. Their conversations, however silly, always seem to have more heft than characters in American films. The Angels' Share is a movie you should seek out if for no other reason than nothing like it would ever be made in Hollywood.

I went in knowing nothing about The Angels' Share aside from its director and came out knowing I'd seen the best movie so far this year. If you love simple films about friendship and a spot of whiskey, I think you'll agree.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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