The sweeping Irish historical epic “The Wind That Shakes The Barley.” The entertaining midlife crisis of “Looking For Eric.” The hard-hitting take on the world’s water woes in “Even The Rain.” Paul Laverty is responsible for writing some of the most intelligent and engaging films of the last decade, a trend that he continues in his latest, the bittersweet but heartwarming comedy from director Ken Loach, the master of social realist cinema. The film is the Cannes Grand Jury Prize-winning THE ANGELS’ SHARE, a very likable tale about city outsiders in search of a better life.
Glasgow boy Robbie (newcomer Paul Brannigan), while on community service, makes three friends, all similarly cast-out from society and hard-up to make ends meet. Little does Robbie know how much a drink could change their lives – not cheap booze, mind you, but the finest of malt whiskies. Robbie’s newly-discovered palate and delicate nose lead him and his crew to a strange new world – the Scottish Highlands – and the biggest gamble of their lives when a cask only rumored to exist appears and tempts them with a big way out of their hard-knock lives.
“The story grew out of the frustration with the way that young people are treated and demonized,” Laverty explains. “The chances are that people like Robbie will never find work in their lives – or taste Scotland’s national drink. They’re frustrated and angry and often self-destructive, and it was such a fun challenge to find a balance that would depict that.”
“By now, there’s a lot we implicitly understand about the way each other works,” he goes on to note. “I’m there for the shoot, which is usually in the sequence in which it appears in the script [rather than being shot non-linearly]. I’m there for the editing, too, which usually leads to great discussions, and Ken is a man who is not afraid of other people’s ideas.”
Loach’s and Laverty’s work together defies conventional labels, just as “The Angels’ Share” is not really of a single genre.
“I don’t really think in terms of genres,” he says. “The tone of some of this film is definitely comic, but there are some very tough elements in it, as well. Robbie comes from a violent past, and I thought it was important to deal with it and show how the ripple effects of violence affects other people’s lives.”
A common parting comment when American audiences watch Scottish films is along the lines of “I know it was in English, but it needed English subtitles.” It seems as though someone at IFC Films, the film’s U.S. distributor, took that to heart… and subtitled “The Angels’ Share” in English.
“It was a good idea, and it plays really really well,” Laverty opines. “There are some good belly laughs, and the film has received an overall positive reaction.”
The one-note grotesque that is “the C-word” makes some appearances in the dialog and the subtitles, but Laverty is quick to point out that he did not use the word at all in writing the screenplay.
“The kids threw it in during filming. Paul managed to turn it into a term of affection. The use of [the F-word] as well is like grammar – like a comma. Not all life in the UK is proper like Wimbledon or tea with the queen. That’s the way the kids speak, and while it’s not something my mother would like to hear, the kids recognize themselves in it.”
And speaking of language, the film’s title comes from what Laverty calls “a delightful notion: that precious per cent that [evaporates and] drifts off by itself to escape homo sapiens and the tax man. The poetic and the bullshit rub up against one another, the mythical, the marketing, the professionalism, the phoney, the snobbery, and of course the sheer genuine pleasure of it all, make for a wonderful concoction with many levels.”•••
“The Angels’ Share” plays at The Cape Ann Community Cinema in Gloucester from May 17 through May 28th.
Robert Newton is the Creative Director of The Cape Ann Community Cinema, which this year celebrates its 5th year serving the North Shore.