MRR Review: "The Angels' Share"

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Narrowly avoiding jail, new dad Robbie vows to turn over a new leaf. A visit to a whiskey distillery inspires him and his buddies to take a different path in their lives.
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MRR Review: "The Angels' Share"

-- Rating: Not Rated
Length: 101 minutes
Release date: 1 June, 2012
Directed by: Ken Loach
Genre: Comedy/ Drama

"The Angels' Share" is a 2012 dramatic comedy based on the lives of a man named Robbie and his closest friends. Robbie has taken his share of kicks in life, and he makes a vow to his newborn son, Luke, that he won't have to endure the same. The movie opens with Robbie and his new friends being sentenced to community service. Robbie himself very narrowly escapes serving a lengthy prison sentence due to the mercy of the judge. In exchange for prison time, though, he must complete plenty of community service. While fulfilling his court-mandated obligations, Robbie meets several other men in similar situations and the motley crew joins forces to change their lives for the better. That change comes through an unlikely source, alcohol.

In the first scene of the movie, Robbie stealthily enters the local hospital to visit his much younger girlfriend, Leonie, right as she is giving birth. Rather than getting to see his new son at first, Robbie is intercepted by her rightfully protective family members and has to break in just to see and hold his son for the very first time. This is the turning point for Robbie. He realizes that he simply can't continue living his life the way he has been and he must turn over a new leaf for the sake of his son.

Robbie learns from the tour guide on a celebratory distillery tour that he is something of a savant when it comes to picking out the aroma and notes within fine whiskey. This creates a rabbit trail of events that leads the group to seek out the Malt Mill, a particularly old and exquisite cask of whiskey.

When the sins of Robbie's old life come back to haunt not only him, but his new family, he decides to set out on a mission to steal the Malt Mill and start anew. His friends agree to help and each receives a dose of life lessons in return.

Robbie, played by Paul Brannigan, is a likeable yet flawed character with whom audiences can relate. He doesn't always make the right decision, but he always has the best of intentions. His friends are equally if not more endearing, particularly John Henshaw's portrayal of Robbie's blundering best mate, Harry. Gary Maitland's absurd character, Albert, adds much needed comic relief. Jasmin Riggins' daring portrayal of Mo rounds out the stellar supporting cast.

One of the most appealing parts of "The Angels' Share" is the fact that each of the main characters sets the story into motion. Without Mo arranging a theft of important documents detailing the location of the Malt Mill, the movie's primary plot would have been impossible. Harry's actions also contribute significantly to the pace and movement of the story.

The most impressive aspect of this film is the slow transformation of Robbie both as a man and father. While he once viewed himself as the toughest guy in the bar, he realizes throughout the film's progression that he was more of a child than anything else. In spite of having enough years under his belt to know better, he behaved as though his actions held no consequence. In reality, he would end up paying those consequences many years down the line, and in order to prevent the ones he loves from sharing in them, he is willing to change his life. Some viewers may object to the unconventional and amoral nature of this change. However, the overall message of the film is about growing up and doing what's right for those who depend on you.

Many audience members will be able to relate to another of the movie's themes, redemption. Robbie is a deeply flawed man who realizes that meaning well just ceases to be enough at a certain point. His past seems inescapable at first, but if he and his friends are both daring and loyal enough, the universe soon provides a way out. Robbie is forced to confront his own fears and put his best interests aside for the first time in his life to focus on someone else. He desperately wants a better life for his son than the one his father provided for him, so he is willing to take risks and grow as a human being.

Despite having a fairly controversial premise, "The Angels' Share" is a heartwarming film with just the right amount of comic relief to pull off its serious plot points. Robbie and his friends are relatable, and the circumstances they find themselves in are so over the top that the film holds new surprises at each turn. Fans of other dramatic comedies like "Trainspotting" and "Ted" will have to find room for "The Angels' Share" on their shelf of favorites.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5