Paul Brannigan was smoking cannabis at the age of eleven, homeless a year later and serving time for violence before he was twenty, then decided enough was enough, but he needed an opportunity, a lucky break. That opportunity arrived when Ken Loach’s longtime screenwriter, Paul Laverty, came across him in the most unlikely of places, doing a spot of soccer coaching for the Strathclyde police – apparently Paul B could have had a shot at the professional game – and persuaded him to audition for Loach’s new film, The Angels’ Share.
Brannigan plays Robbie, another young Glaswegian tearaway looking to escape the vicious cycle of macho gang warfare ‘without a cause’ where not backing down was more important than the often disproportionately severe consequences. Laverty’s instincts proved spot-on with Brannigan providing the kind of knowing performance that Loach elicited from Martin Compston in Sweet Sixteen a decade ago and, like Compston, he has an easy screen presence, which fits in a treat with Loach’s naturalistic style.
Robbie finds himself in the last chance saloon after avoiding a custodial sentence by the skin of his teeth for his latest brush with the law. Coping with fatherhood for the first time, he is on a final warning from his girlfriend’s psycho dad who means business. All roads lead to violence in this world where one generation raises the next in its own image and then condemns it for repeating the past. The most hard-hitting scene of the film sees Robbie squirming with shame when a rehabilitation programme brings him face-to-face with the mother of a disfigured victim of an unprovoked drug-fuelled attack from Robbie’s past.
As with Brannigan himself – is this a case of film following real life or vice versa? – he receives a chance out of the blue. It comes in the form of Harry, a no-nonsense community service officer with a massive heart, played with conviction and touching humour by the terrific character actor, John Henshaw. Harry introduces him to the bourgeois and wacky world of whisky tasting and inadvertently sets in motion a series of events that has Robbie and three of his offender mates embarking upon a scam, which takes them off to the Highlands and a possible escape from their predicament.
This is Loach in the same lighter mood as his minor work, Looking For Eric, but the blend of comedy – a nod/quasi homage to the Ealing comedy, Whisky Galore – and his trademark social realism has much more to say; focused with sharp observation and astute political irony on the return to Thatcher style unemployment in general and the very serious and socially disruptive poverty trap of 21st century Glasgow in particular.
Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, and William Ruane provide solid support as Robbie’s accomplices with seamless shifts from comedy to serious drama, and Charlie MacClean provides a superb deadpan turn as an over the top and dandy master of ceremonies that nevertheless seems very real.
Robbie Ryan is on board as the cinematographer but his camera is less prominent than usual; kept at a safe distance in the familiar Loachian style.
Loach, very much a Cannes favourite and a former Palme D’Or winner, bagged the Jury Prize for The Angels’ Share in this year’s main competition.buy female viagrafemale viagra for salewomens viagra onlinegeneric female viagra