Published: 31 May, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Ken Loach
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
When you stick a few gallons of whisky into a cask and leave it for 10, 20, or 30 years to mature and mellow, you lose a tiny percentage of the golden liquid to evaporation.
It is known in the trade as the “angels’ share”, and it is this tiny amount of high quality Scottish firewater that is the pivot of the plot of Ken Loach’s new film revolves around.
The opening scene has us focusing on a series of heads in the dock at a Glaswegian court. Sentences are read out, and we listen as various misdemeanours are rattled through while faces with poverty etched across them bite lips, stare at the floor and ceiling and generally look contrite when their trouble-causing is put down in black and white and then read out by the beak.
We meet Robbie (Paul Brannigan), who has a nasty scar down one cheek and is regularly the focus of punch-ups, beatings and general violent skullduggery.
But the advent of parenthood brings him to realise that he needs to change his life, and, while he is doing community service, he befriends the team leader Harry (John Henshaw).
Harry has a passion for whisky, and introduces Robbie to the drink.
Robbie proves to have a sensitive nose and he is invited by his team leader to go to a whisky conference in Edinburgh.
It is here he learns of a recently discovered, super rare and super fine cask of whisky due to be auctioned off for millions.
Known as a Malt Mill keg cask, it prompts Robbie to hatch a plot with his fellow community servers to steal the “angels’ share” – and flog it off to a super-rich whisky enthusiast.
Loach knows Scotland: Carla’s Song and My Name Is Joe focus on similar themes.
He has the ability to conjure interesting performances out of his acting rookies, and has a unique ear for dialogue that means the words are as important landmarks in each scene as the action that is taking place.
This is in the same territory as Looking For Eric in that it has Loach’s usual sensibilities writ large, with plenty of social commentary, but is also laced with humour.
Serious issues faced include poverty, the cycle of depravation, the responsibility of fatherhood, the petty violence, and the sins of the father heaped on the innocent offsprings.
Yet Loach has managed to weave these themes into a film which has lots of warmth. A clever feat, and one we have come to expect from this wonderful director.