A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"The Angel's Share" finds UK director Ken Loach doing as he's done for 45 years, filming mercurial human beings like a wildlife cameraman, tracking their spontaneous behavior from afar through an extreme telephoto lens mounted on a loose tripod head. He didn't invent the technique. It goes at least as far back as Akira Kurosawa's rain storm battle in "Seven Samurai." And Loach doesn't even claim credit for originating the British flavor of that style: He says one of his earliest cinematographers, fellow improvisatory genius Chris Menges, copped it from the Czech cameraman Miroslav Ondricek ("If ...").
Yet there is no mistaking when Loach employs it, no matter the decade, the setting, the actors or who's manning the camera (in this case, Robbie Ryan, the lensman of Andrea Arnold's kinetic "Fish Tank" and "Wuthering Heights"). Loach's realism always carries a distinct sense of humor, volatility and, most alarmingly in this hypercapitalist new century, a socialist passion for The People.
That last line shouldn't scare away a reader averse to leftist propaganda and unfamiliar with the warmth and universal insight of Loach's work. Whatever his polemics (usually speaking out for poor people in need of a hand up in England's ever-embattled welfare state), Loach is generally a dramatist first. In that sense, "The Angel's Share" is Loach business as usual.
At 76, though, this most down-to-earth of kitchen-sink realists appears to be in an exceptionally playful, celebratory mood. The story involves a young first-time father who gets mixed up in a crime caper that could destroy his future. But a famous pop song by Scotland's the Proclaimers, played as the would-be criminals journey to their heist disguised in traditional kilts, typifies the blithe spirit that prevails here.