Postcard: Glasgow

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 4:40pm

For a director so revered as Ken Loach, it's strange to note how alien he feels at home. "In Britain, it's been not good," he sighs, referring to the minimalist distribution his films - even the 2006 Cannes Palme d'Or-winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley - have generally received. So it must be something of a pleasant change to see how beloved his latest Cannes Film Festival winner - this time of the Jury Prize - The Angels' Share, has become.

In Britain, this good-natured "whisky heist" comedy broke the £1 million (HK$11.56 million) barrier at the box office. "It did well in Scotland, particularly," Loach says. "You never know what to expect. It just tapped into the Scottish sense of humour."

Written by Loach's regular scribe Paul Laverty, it once again brings the Bath-based director to Glasgow (where he is surely now an honorary citizen having set five films there, from 1996's Carla's Song onwards). "I learned very early on, you work where the writer writes most easily. And while you could set this story in most cities across Europe, the particular idiom and place that Paul writes about best is the west coast of Scotland."

Like his 2002 film Sweet Sixteen, Loach's latest offering deals with violence and unemployment among the city's youth - only this time troublemaker Robbie (Paul Brannigan) and his mates plan to set themselves up for life by stealing some rare malt whisky from an upcoming auction. What emerges is a heartwarming underdog tale.

For newcomer Brannigan, getting the role in The Angels' Share was more than just a novelty. "I reckon it saved my life," he says. With a past that echoes Robbie's own violent upbringing - "drugs, gangs and fights", as he puts it - Brannigan spent time at a young offenders institution for "discharging a firearm". "I was really at wrecking point," he says. "I didn't know where to turn."

Loach believes Brannigan's situation is hardly unique. "I think it's desperate," he says. "The worst thing is you see young people with no possibility of work."

Brannigan hopes his experiences will inspire others. "I think it'll be good for young people to look at me and say 'I remember him when he was a kid.' Maybe it could be inspirational."

The Angels' Share, Fri, The Grand Cinema, Mar 26, 9.45pm, HK Cultural Centre. Part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival