Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Gentle readers, I apologize for my absence.  Recently I  attended work in progress at HATCH! a festival of new work at Harbourfront and the remount of a show I have previously discussed here, I WON'T HATCH!

I decided not to write about of those two pieces.  It seemed redundant to review "I Will Not...." and unfair to comment on work in development.

Last weekend,  I  walked to to the TIFF Lightbox in downtown Toronto on a Saturday night to go get lost in a movie.  The Lightbox is a beautiful building and going there always feels special. But I digress...

The "angels' share" is a term used by distillery makers to describe the 2% of production of fine, barrel-aged single malt Scotch that vaporizes.  The theory is, the angels drink it.

Who could blame them? A "wee dram" of "Visge Beatha", the "water of life", one of Scotland's finest exports is a fine celebratory drink to share with a dear old friend over a long catch-up or to savour at the end of a long, tough night.

Robbie, our unlikely protagonist is introduced to the delicacy by Harry, his community service supervisor on the occasion of the birth of Robbie's first son.  Robbie thinks it tastes horrible and asks to have it diluted with Coke and ice.

Robbie is a working class kid.  Unemployed, hard-scrabble, dirt-poor he's from an inter-generational underclass. Toughs beat the crap out of him and he beats the crap out of others, especially if high or enraged.  Robbie has been high or enraged a lot. He has a knife scar on the side of his young face that advertises the kind of life he's led and that advert keeps him from being considered for employment.  So the vicious cycle continues.

The film starts with four offenders being sentenced to community service.  Robbie has beaten an innocent young man who accidentally bumped him with a car while parking.  As his long-suffering and heavily pregnant girlfriend Leoni watches, Robbie  is told his next brush with the law will land him a long prison sentence. The victim of Robbie's coke-induced wrath has been left blind in one eye.

The victim impact meeting is one of the film's most powerful moments. Robbie is rendered speechless and tearful with shame and guilt as he is confronted by the family of the young man he injured.  Then we see his girlfriend's father lay a beating on Robbie of equal severity for the crime of dating his daughter.

Not even a brutal father-in-law can deter Robbie. He loves his girlfriend and  his son. He is determined to turn his life around for the sake of remaining with her and for the sake of their new baby.

Loach is a great creator of social realism and he doesn't disappoint here.  There's a great scene where Robbie, who is living in a shared flat, is sitting on the bed in his room.  There's a wild party going on his house.  The crap stereo thuds through the wall. His bedroom furniture is a mattress on the floor.

The bond Robbie develops with Harry, who becomes a kind of father to him, the appreciation he develops for fine whiskey and the sheer desperation of his situation, lead him to come up with a plan with his new community service worker cronies to give them the cash injection and confidence boost they need to turn their lives around.

The charm and thrill of the second act caper had me rooting hard for for a pack of petty criminals who need a break.  Unobtrusively shot, well-acted, well-written and well-directed, this is a great feel good film from a fine old-school socialist. At the end, ( and I'm not going to tell you any more about what happens) you hope their luck holds.

A friend gave me a very expensive bottle of whiskey for a birthday gift this past year.  I decided to have one before bed, as a toast to Loach and his fine crew for an engaging story and a tribute to the appreciation of fine whiskey, "the angels' share."  Go and enjoy the film.  Like a single malt, it is special treat.