PLOT: Narrowly avoiding jail, new dad Robbie vows to turn over a new leaf. He is assigned to community service and meets some new friends with common problems. He is being threatened by old adversaries and needs to find a way out. A visit to a whisky distillery inspires him and his mates to seek a way out of their hopeless lives.
REVIEW: Director Ken Loach and Writer Paul Laverty collaborate for another film (previous outings include The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Route Irish). They do an excellent job of combining a story about a recovering hoodlum with a bit of sweet comedic caper. What this film lacks in clarity, it makes up for in charm.
Actor Paul Brannigan, who plays the lead, Robbie, had the right mix of troubled youth, intelligence and charm in order to portray the struggle of a man who is at the precipace of a life changing event. He seems a little green around the gills as an actor, but holds his own quite nicely in this, giving us a charismatic protagonist that you can’t help but have sympathy for despite his violent past.
His compatriots in crime provide a nice variety to their team, which for some reason reminds me of Michael Keaton’s Dream Team from the 80’s.
Some of the films weak points are in its use of time compression and short hand when it shouldn’t be there. When Robbie takes a tour with his fellow community service friends of a whiskey distillery, this peaks his interest in whiskey. He has a perfect sensitive nose for being a connoisseur From the moment his interest is peaked, to the moment he is an expert is about 10 seconds and this makes it hard to believe this tough guy to passionate erudite so quickly.
In addition, the script does not give its due to the supporting cast. While it is full of interesting characters, we don’t quite find out their who, what and why’s. There is a clever opening sequence to the film that gives us a bit of their personality and why they are in the community service, but shy of that, the character lacked emotional depth. That is, except for John Henshaw, who plays Harry, the community service leader who takes a chance of Robbie. His arc was sweet and I really liked his performance here.
The film feels like it could go anywhere in the end, and keeps you rooting for these characters, just hoping and praying that Robbie’s past wont destroy his future at any cataclysmic moment.
The film is subtitled in English in order to translate some of the deeper Scottish brogue for those of us who don’t quite have an ear for it.
I’m a sucker for the Scottish – so this movie had me at hello. It features the rough world of a man living in Glasgow, who grew up on the wrong side of the Hairy Coo. But, then during a wonderful sequence of hitchhiking to Northern Scotland, we get a beautiful look at natural Scotland, peet, mountains, kilts and all. All of which is near and dear to my heart from my own travels through the area almost 15 years ago. I do wish Cinematographer Robbie Ryan had given this section a bit more screen to breathe, as we did miss some of the more dramatic landscapes.
Winner of the Jury Prize and nominated for the coveted Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival are no small feats – and this little film has the independent sweet spirit to deservedly earn them both. This is a funny film that is a good time, with some great tender and tough dramatic moments. I would definitely recommend it for those who like films with independent spirits (pun intended).