Legitimate crowd-pleasing comedies are hard to come by these days. Too often, audiences are given the latest, greatest Judd Apatow groan-fest or an Eddie Murphy fart-comedy, and we’re told this is the best you can get out of Hollywood. That’s why it’s exceedingly pleasant to plumb the foreign release shelves for something fresh, something inspired, something different, yet something decidedly wholesome. I’m not sure that a character comedy dealing with wayward youths – one a bruiser, one a loser, one a thief, and one a bully – could be as wholesome and inviting if it had come out of Hollywood, and, thankfully, I won’t have to know, as THE ANGELS’ SHARE is apt to prove it can be done outside of the American studio system … and done quite nicely!
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Robbie (played convincing by newcomer Paul Brannigan) is an impetuous young man drifting in and out of a world of casual violence. However, when the local magistrate gives the boy one last chance to make things right through community service (at the risk of losing his girlfriend and newborn son), Robbie makes a commitment to himself to do better. Even though he realizes he’ll be stuck in the same dead-end town with the same local riff-raff out for his head, he buckles down hard, and his efforts impress his court-appointed supervisor enough to encourage the lad in ways he’s never been exposed to. On a chance road-trip to the local brewery, Robbie discovers he’s a natural gift for whiskey tasting; yet in order to finally ‘get ahead,’ he might have to secretly embrace his lawless ways one last time in masterminding the heist of a few bottles from a “lost cast” of legendary Malt Mill whiskey he can sell to the highest bidder in order to finance a new life for his family.
Thus, one of the most unusual family-friend films I’ve seen out of the United Kingdom begins, and it’s no surprise that audiences have embraced the excessively ‘feel good’ tones sprinkled through THE ANGELS’ SHARE. The script by Paul Laverty is chocked full of interesting characters, and director Ken Loach manages to squeeze some solid performances out of a group of cinema misfits all accustomed to losing more frequently than THE BAD NEWS BEARS did decades ago. But it’s that ‘never give up, never surrender’ attitude of these wayward youths – all struggling to find themselves in spite of their worst habits – that inspires audiences to see the good in them, and it certainly works effectively in this 90 minute feature.
If the picture has any weakness (so far as I’m concerned) it’s that the script presents a handful of smaller scenarios that viewers are left to accept at face value. For instance, Robbie and his fellow community service crewmembers grow into fast friendships, and we’re never given any real substance to see the evolution from casual shared sufferers to full friendship; rather – in an abbreviated fashion – we’re treated to a couple of scenes of interaction, and then suddenly they’re all best friends (or, at least, best friends so far as the story is concerned). Similarly, we’re treated to only a handful of glimpses that justify Robbie’s new talents – we see his interest, and we see his interest nurtured, but it’s actual discovery is a bit of a ‘deus ex machina’ required in order for the tale to be spun just this way. However, because it’s all heavily nuanced with solid character comedy AND that ever-present ‘feel good’ vibe, it’s an easy pill to swallow.
It’s no wonder SHARE won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Suspend any disbelief, and you’re likely to enjoy it as much as the film academics did, too!
THE ANGELS’ SHARE (2012) is produced by Entertainment One, Sixteen Films, Why Not Productions, and a handful of others (you can surf over to IMDB if you’re interested in knowing more). DVD distribution is being handled through MPI Media Group. Tip: although this is an English-spoken-language film, I found it helpful to have the subtitles on as a few of these blokes’ accents were very, very thick. As for the special features, there are a handful of deleted scenes (they really don’t add anything to the story) and the theatrical trailer – again, IFC, it would be nice to get a bit more, especially given the feel-good nature of the film.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. No doubt, THE ANGELS’ SHARE is one of those rare flicks that audiences love to stumble across because, then, they can recommend it to all of their friends, giving the impression that they’re a true film aficionado – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a great li’l flick – a gem of a story about recovery and redemption, though not without a few narrative hiccups for those of us who watch a bit more closely – and it’s even family-friendly, though not without a warning for some of the rougher material (there’s a frank, uncomfortable discussion of a particular event in Robbie’s past that’s mildly gruesome). Still, I’d give it a solid thumbs up if for no other reason than having it’s heart in the right place!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of THE ANGELS’ SHARE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.