What better time to kick-start my blog then the Diamond Jubilee? And who better to celebrate then the greatest British directors of all time? Ok, I’m not sure Ken Loach is a huge fan of Her Majesty, but this is a time for celebrating our love for the people of Britain, and Loach certainly has plenty of that to go around. Loach teams up with long term writing partner, the excellent Paul Laverty, for The Angel’s Share, a surprisingly upbeat look at the lives of a group of juvenile delinquents, completing community service for a variety of reasons- so far so miserable; but the film unfolds into a light-hearted tale of comradery- and perhaps one of the most impressive heists to be shown on screen in recent years.
Robbie, played by promising newcomer Paul Brannigan, wants to turn his life around for the sake of his unborn child. He is constantly in trouble for violent crimes, and has been warned by his partner that he risks losing everything if he doesnt straighten up. The problem is, with a huge scar on his face and a criminal record, the prospect of getting a job and staying out of trouble in a neglected area of Glasgow isn’t too promising. Luckily for Robbie, he finds a friend in community worker Harry,(played by the ever-brilliant Jon Henshaw) who sees potential him, and his curiously sharp whisky tasting skills. Robbie then uses his skills to mastermind that ‘one last job’, before heading along the straight and narrow.
The beauty of many of Loach’s films, and The Angel’s Share is no exception, is his ability to portray tragedy in such an unassuming way, that the viewer is almost unaware of their sympathies, right until they realise they’re cheering on the bad guy, or in this case, the misbehaving youth in a tracksuit. And it is through understanding this that the viewer can really understand the politics behind the film. The battle is not between Robbie and the wealthy whisky collectors of Scotland, but between the youth of Britain and those who are failing them. Those who are criticise the youth are really those who are partly responsible for their demise. The film, like many of his others, can be compared to De Sica’s Bicycle Theives- the tragedy is not in the stealing of the bike, but in the stealing of a man’s livelihood, and the loss of a man’s diginity, and the endless cycle that continues. The ending of the film is certainly far-fetched, but does Loach have to resort to fantasy in order for their to be a happy ending? Sadly, it does seem like the only option.
But it has to be said, as it is not said often enough, with the politics of The Angel’s Share , like much of Loach’s work, being at the core of the film, it can be easy to assume that the story is fogged by a need to get the point accross, but the film delivers a solid narrative, a flawless cast and, above all, a lot of laughs.