Angels’ Share

Every year about %2 of the spirit is actually lost. It just disappears and evaporates into thin air. Gone forever.  It’s what we call the “ANGELS’ SHARE”.

After seeing Ken Loach’s most recent movie, “Angels’ share”, I still think “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, his 2006 masterpiece about Irish War of Independence, is his best work. But it does not mean that I do not prefer “Angels’ Share” to most of the films released in 2012. It’s a simple beautiful movie that drags the audience with it to the end of the story.


We first meet the main characters of the movie, Robert Emerson (Robbie) and his friends, in a court. He is in trouble for breaking the law. This isn’t his first time in the court; he has behaved violently and irresponsibly before and he isn’t on the right foot with his girlfriend’s father. Also we understand that he didn’t have a good start in life because both his “parents were frequently in and out of custody during his formative years”. Due to the proximity of the birth of his first child with his girlfriend, Leone, and his willingness to change and take responsibility, he is sentenced to 300 hours of community payback. The court’s rule receives a severe objection from some people attending the trial. We find out later that they are Clancy (Robbie’s rival) and his friends who come from the same poor and troublesome background. The conflict between Robbie and Clancy goes back to many years ago to the time their fathers used to fight at school.

Harry, a nice man who is in charge of Robbie and other community workers, brings them to a distillery. That is where Robbie gets interested in Whiskey tasting. He starts reading about and tasting different Whiskies. He is invited by Harry for a tasting and that’s where he finds out about an auction of a cask of a rare Whiskey. And a plan shapes in his mind.

In another scene, a family whose son has been beaten up by Robbie comes to see him. By using flashback, the movie shows us that Robbie used to abuse drugs and to behave savagely violent. We also understand that he has been in prison for that assault for a year. When that family leaves, Robbie tells Leone:

“I wanted to tell her that if someone had done that to my son, to Luke, I’d want the bastard hung.”

Then he tells to his newly born child:

“Luke, I swear on your life, and on mine, that I will never hurt another person as long as I live.”

These aren’t the only clichéd dialogues in this movie. Actually, the first half of the movie is full of them. That is why I started doubting Ken Loach still having his talent, that he was justtrying to tell a story about the poor and the underdog. But fortunately the movie is just like its main characters, Whiskey and Robbie.

Awards won by Angels’ Share:


2012 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize (and nominated for Palm d’Or)

2012 BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor and Best Writer

2013 San Sebastián International Film Festival Audience Award

Whiskey, in “Angles’ share” is a symbol of the main character*, Robbie. Whiskey gets better with age, and so does Robbie, and very interestingly and probably unintentionally, so does the movie. As mentioned before, the first half of the movie is filled with clichéd dialogues and situations. But as the movie goes on, the story, acting and dialogues get better and better and pulls you through to the end.

The first time I watched the movie, when “a certain accident” happened during the second half of the movie it startled me and I literally jumped in my seat. Few serious movies can rise such reaction in me which shows how well the situation was presented and how strongly it made me self-identify with the characters and react just like them. Only an extremely talented director can make such scenes with so little material.

Ken Loach is famous for making “uncompromising”** films about the working class. He is one of the few professional directors who have dedicated his works to this theme. It is not a good sign that in today’s cinema there are very few film-makers like Loach working on this sort of topic. Christos Tsiolkas says in an interview with Mary Zournazi***:

“The free market, the individual, economic rationalist ideas hold sway at the moment. So we are not going to find the experience of working-class life being expressed in those places where people have a much more conservative idea of economics. I get a real sense with a lot of writers, filmmakers and people involved in the cultural industry that they no longer feel a responsibility about talking about the social. I find that distressing …”

Bottom Line

Angels’ share is an interesting  and compelling movie with a simple story. Even if you are not a Loach fan, you can still enjoy watching a good movie.


* Some critics like Colin Covert from Minneapolis Star Tribune, think of “the distilling process as a symbol of the characters’ evolution”.

** Socialist Worker: Ken Loach: How the struggle made me feel less like compromising

***Zournazi, M, 2002, Hope: new philosophies for change, Pluto Press, Australia. P 117

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