The Angels' Share Movie Review
In Glasgow, Robbie (Brannigan) narrowly escapes a lengthy prison sentence and is assigned to community payback under the supervision of Harry (Henshaw). At the same time, Robbie's girlfriend (Reilly) is about to give birth to their son, forcing him to rethink his life as a street thug. After Harry introduces him to single-malt whisky, Robbie decides to further explore whisky-tasting with his fellow workers (Maitland, Ruane and Riggins). And after meeting whisky broker Thaddeus (Allam), he hatches an idea that might get them all out of trouble.
Through tone changes and lost plot-threads, the story's transitions aren't very smooth. The film opens as a dark doc-style drama about poor young people stuck in a cycle of violence, then changes into a tale of youthful hope and camaraderie before finally turning into a full-on caper comedy. All of this is written and performed to realistically reveal the issues, settings and characters as it veers between humorous slapstick, serious drama and a surprisingly tense heist.
The actors give likeable performances even when characters drift toward stereotype. At the centre, Brannigan's engaging stillness reflects Robbie's internal turmoil. Pressured from all sides, we root for him to channel his inner rage into something positive. That this turns out to be whisky feels gimmicky (the title refers to the portion that evaporates during distillation), but this world so rarely seen on-screen that we don't mind. Although the fact that a crime releases him from a life of crime is frankly dodgy.
As the story progresses, the growing camaraderie between Robbie and his pals is entertaining, as is his clear joy at fatherhood and the respect he has for Harry, the person who finally gave him a chance to straighten out. Yes, all of this is rather tidy, and perhaps not so hopeful for viewers who feel like they never had a chance like this. But the point is subtly made that it's useless to complain about low-life youth if you're not willing to do something, however small it seems, to set them on a better path.