'Angels' Share' Cannes Review: The Scots Get Into Some Whisky Business

'Angels' Share' Cannes Review: The Scots Get Into Some Whisky Business

May 25, 2012

Whisky brought me in. That's all I knew about Angels' Share, and for me, that is pretty much enough. I have associated whisky with becoming a man, mainly because I just started my love affair (specifically with bourbon) about a year ago. It's what men do. This film is also about entering manhood, it just has a different way of showing it.

I didn't know exactly what to make of it during the first act. The opening scene is a wacky comedy, shortly after that you get the idea it's an ensemble piece. Suddenly, we're focusing on one young Scottish bloke named Robbie (Paul Brannigan). His story feels like it could go either way, and it's a few moments away from being a heavy coming-of-age drama like Ken Loach's previous film The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Robbie is a new dad, and he's sincerely making an effort to leave his violent past. He has 300 hours of community payback (service) to do, and while there he meets Harry (John Henshaw) who takes a shine to the lad. To celebrate a special moment Harry shares a bottle of whisky with Robbie. Instantly, Robbie has a nose for it. Yes, we've finally gotten to the point where this becomes a whisky movie. More specifically, it's a whisky caper.

Robbie and three others that he meets in community payback decide to steal an extremely valuable cask of whisky. The only one truly worth mentioning of these characters is Albert (Gary Maitland). He's a bumbling fool that reminded me of the daft Karl Pilkington from The Ricky Gervais Show. If this was an American film, I probably wouldn't be able to buy in to the idiocy of this character, but the Scottish charm was enough to have me chuckling throughout his performance. Speaking of Scottish. In Cannes screenings, there are French subtitles on the screen, and a small, separate screen below it with English subtitles. Even though it was just a slightly think Scottish accent, there were English subtitles for Angels' Share. I'm really curious if the subtitles will remain when it's realized in America. I felt like I didn't need the subtitles 85 percent of the time.

The true tone of the film finally appears with the help of a certain song. "I'm Going to Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers kicks in when the gang is on their way to steal the whisky. It doesn't hurt the film, like some of you might be thinking. It actually lets you know everything will be all right. It's impossible for something truly bad to happen in a film that dares play that song. It's peppy, fun, and gets stuck in your head for a little while ... just like Angels' Share. Speaking of, the term "angels' share" refers to the two percent of whisky that naturally evaporates from a cask every year. Those are the fun little facts the film is filled with. Sadly, my Cannes cupboard was bare of whisky or bourbon when I arrived home after the film. I'll have to wait until I get back to the States. I can wait, and you'll be able to wait for Angels' Share, but when you do have the chance to finally see it, give it a watch. It's an amusing, albeit forgettable film. Cheers to that.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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