The Angels’ Share is a movie about drinking that never touches on alcoholism. Instead, the story focuses on a group of spirits-loving criminals who were given second chances when they received community service sentences instead of prison time.
Unpredictable but fun-loving, these individuals search for a brighter future in this compelling, satisfactory comedy.
Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is the group’s ringleader. We meet him after he–high on coke–beat up an innocent teenager after a traffic incident. When a judge offers him leniency, the troubled Robbie is ordered to perform 300 hours of community service. But although he is still tempted to commit violence, Robbie wants to change. His girlfriend is pregnant with his first child so he wants to cast aside his angry past and start acting like an adult.
Unfortunately for him, his girlfriend’s family wants to prevent that. They threaten, stalk and intimidate him to keep him away from both his child and the woman he loves. They even viciously beat him up in one scene while Robbie does nothing to protect himself, not wanting to turn back to his violent past.
The heart of the story is Robbie, and Brannigan does an admirable job in the role. He is naïve and innocent-looking but underneath that facade, he has the capacity to commit acts of ferocious violence. Robbie sheds tears while listening to his teenage victim recount the night of Robbie’s attack, but a few scenes later is tempted to kill a man who threatens his new life. In one particularly poignant sequence, Robbie even admits that if someone else injured his child in the way that he himself once injured that teen, he would want that person wiped off the planet.
Fatherhood has changed his views in a way that few things could.
As the story proceeds, Robbie and his community service brethren hatch a plan to steal an expensive bottle of wine. The group of oddball criminals decide to infiltrate an illustrious wine auction so that Robbie can have the money to move away with his girlfriend and child.
Director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty have developed a promising and fulfilling comedy here that never shies away from the violence of the main character’s past. Instead, it shows how ugly his actions can be but also building sympathy for him as he attempts to escape who he once was.Although the plot is often predictable and the ending a bit contrived, the path along the way is oddly endearing and full of heart.
Looking back, it seems obvious that the character of Robbie must carry the story for it to truly work. Audiences must root for him, despite some of the things he does along the way and despite the man he once was.
But this is a man chastened by fatherhood. Of course he makes mistakes along the way and his path never hits the straight and narrow (his plan to start a new life does involve a robbery, after all) but the journey is still worth taking.
The Angels’ Share is–in the end–a surprisingly warm and heartfelt film about a man who can–at his worst–be cold and heartless.