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The Angels' Share

The Angels' Share is a wonderfully engaging Scottish comedy that follows the lives of a quartet of young Glaswegians sentenced to community service. What seems at first a grim story opens in a courtroom. While high on cocaine, Robbie (Paul Brannigan) injured an innocent young man and then served his time in a youth prison. After a scuffle with some neighborhood thugs, Robbie's back before a magistrate. This time, he's sentenced to 300 hours of community service. Robbie and other ne'er-do-well ex-cons are overseen by kindly social worker Harry.

On days off, Harry takes his charges on field trips, including a stop at a whiskey distillery. The title refers to an obscure tidbit gleaned while on the tour. A guide explains that about 2% of the spirit simply dissipates yearly from the barrels. "It just evaporates into thin air," she says. " It's what we call 'the angels' share.' "

Holding his newborn son, Robbie vows never to hurt another person. But a trio of thugs are determined to make Robbie's life miserable. The lead thug's father spent his days fighting with Robbie's dad. Robbie's girlfriend pleads with him not to let the cycle of violence carry through to their son

Though he can't find a job or even get an interview, Robbie learns he has a potentially marketable skill — a heightened ability to smell the various elements of a whiskey. The plot thickens, but the mood grows lighter. Robbie crosses paths with elite whiskey collector Thaddeus, and his fortunes change. Robbie masterminds an elaborate caper in which he and three pals don kilts because "nobody ever bothers anybody wearing a kilt." The foursome head for the hills.

The film's comedic elements are heightened by the antics of the quartet in their bedraggled kilts, hoodies and beanies. They wangle their way into an auction purporting to be members of a malt whiskey club. From there, events spin off into a cleverly farcical realm involving some pricey barrels.

The winner of the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes last year, The Angels' Share achieves a magical blend of gritty and heartwarming, an unbeatable combination. Director Ken Loach captures the tragedy, chaos and disillusionment in the lives of Robbie and friends without sentimentality. There's a sense of redemption that infuses the final scenes. Rather than a slapped-on Hollywood-style happy ending, the uplift feels hard-won.

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The Angels' Share

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