The highly regarded British director, Ken Loach, has screened 11 of his movies at the Cannes Film Festival. No other helmer holds this record. What is more, all his 11 movies played in the coveted Competition, with his 2006 The Wind that Shakes the Barley clinching the top Palm d’Or.
Loach has made comedies like Looking for Eric, thrillers like Hidden Agenda and Route Irish, and epic period pieces like Land and Freedom and The Wind that Shakes the Barley. His stories have been gripping and driven by endearing characters.
This year, his The Angel’s Share was part of the 22-film Competition lineup. This movie, coming out of a partnership between Loach and writer Paul Laverty, is one of the best from the director’s stable. It is warm, it is witty and, despite the moral issues it throws up that I had a problem with, The Angel’s Share ends on note of hope and happiness.
About Britain’s generation of young men and women struggling to find their bread and butter, Loach’s work often seems like a fairy tale that ends well. And it is peppered with delightful humour, sweet sentiment and fair play. As one critic said “The Angels’ Share deftly balances heartbreak and hilarity to offer a cheering, feel good ray of hope from what often seem like the bleakest of lives.”
One of these lives is Robbie (wonderfully performed by newcomer Paul Brannigan). He easily flies off the handle, shirks responsibility and has always been made to feel that he is no good. But there comes one defining moment, so to say, in his life, when he becomes a father. The girl is not his wife, but he loves her. Sentenced to community service for a vicious assault, Robbie meets a kind hearted social worker, who introduces the young man to the joys of fine malt whisky. Robbie discovers he has a talent to spot the subtle nuances of the drink, and in what appears like the good fortune of fate, life shows him a way out of his dreary and desperate state.
Punchy dialogues add a dash of zing to The Angel’s Share, which has it touching moments, which has its tense times and which has characters entirely believable.
One hopes that this latest Loach would find theatrical outlet in India.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Cannes Film Festival for Hindustantimes.com)