Sunday, May 26, 2013


By Chuck Graham,


Generally, we all like to think that each of us has one special gift which, if we discovered what it is, would make us rich and famous. Or at least famous.

For some it might be recording a song that becomes a rock ’n’ roll classic. For others it could be discovering a scientific link responsible for the evolution of hamsters…..well, you get the idea.

British filmmaker Ken Loach imagines a layabout lad as good natured as he is lacking in curiosity in “The Angel’s Share,” now playing at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

This contemporary dash-about-the-Scottish-countryside ends up at a prestigious whiskey distillery where Robbie (Paul Brannigan) discovers he has a natural instinct for sniffing out the subtle differences in fine whiskeys.

Given his lower class lifestyle and education, is there any way he can attain the position for which this particular talent for giving winners the nose will be useful? Well, maybe not directly.

Not even indirectly but the 76-year-old Loach, long noted for his socialist leanings, does make the most of laughing at such an unforgiving  society.

Actually the plot is not the point here. More important is the spirit of these somewhat scruffy folk who have no patience with such a rigid class system. They want change and they want it now.

But first, the movie -- filled with English subtitles (thank goodness) because the accents of these boys-in-burlap are so very thick.

Petulant Robbie, always in trouble with the law, loses his temper once too often in a street brawl, seriously injuring his opponent and going to serious jail, albeit still as an adolescent. Miraculously he is sentenced to 300 hours of community service.

The amply proportioned social worker Harry (an endearing John Henshaw) is in charge of several lads just like Robbie. Patiently the weary Harry leads his batch of bad boys through several projects painting a church, picking up trash and the like.

To help ease the boredom with his job as a social worker, Harry also takes his groups on field trips from time to time. A favorite stop is one of the Scottish highlands’ top whiskey distilleries.

During the tour and in a somewhat patronizing manner, Robbie is asked to sniff a sample of the contents in a barrel being prepared for market. To everyone’s surprise, including his own, Robbie instinctively identifies the most important qualities in this particular barrel of precious liqueur.

Now, Robbie may not know anything about Scotch but he does know an opportunity when he sees one.

The rest of “The Angel’s Share” is a delightful caper about bright if uneducated teens poking holes in the stuffed shirts of arrogant connoisseurs who may have deep pockets but don’t have much nose for Scotland’s bottled treasure.

“The Angel’s Share” won last year’s Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, for its magical tale both gritty and heartwarming. Who could resist drinking a toast right now to such a potent blend.

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