The Angels’ Share: a film that turns whiskey into a political metaphor. Drink Up!

July 20th 2012

When the weather is raining and grey, I often like to go to see a film in the afternoon.  It beats drinking tea in front of the box, watching the insipid couples on property programmes or the madness of Come Dine with Me. So last Saturday I checked the internet to see what was local and I found The Angels’ Share.

It was film recommended to me by Detective Inspector John Carnochan who heads up the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit.  He spoke at our Staff Conference last year on the recommendation of Alice Sharp who heard him speak in Glasgow and was blown away by his stories.  Staff still talk about his story of David which shows how the system fails a young boy from a very troubled background and how the intergenerational cycle is reaffirmed by the system rather than dismantled.  It was probably the same conversation that got our Prime Minister thinking about those 120,000 troubled families. (His mistake may have been letting celebrity culture influence his choice of Family Czar… that’s another story though!)

Directed by Ken Loach (always a good sign), the film focused on Robbie who came from a rough family and was roaming the streets of Glasgow causing drug-fuelled violence and havoc.  The film showed graphically why so many young people turn bad and how there are so few routes out.  Robbie is intelligent and has three pieces of good luck which he uses sensibly.  First he falls in love with a good girl and she has his baby.  Having produced this baby she introduces him to Robbie with the words…

The midwife says only half his brain is formed and the other half depends on what we do over the next few years… Robbie we have to do good for him and if you won’t help I will have to do this on my own.

What a fantastic insight into the stuff we in Early Years call brain development and making good synaptic connections!

The second piece of good luck was that the judge did not imprison him for a violent crime because of his relationship with the girl, and sent him to Community Payback where he met Harry (no nothing to do with Sally).  Harry was one of those salt of the earth, warm, caring community workers who are sadly quite rare, but when around have the potential to make a huge difference. He introduced him to human warmth and the kind of adult relationships Camilla Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company advocates, because she is convinced the right relationship with an adult can repair and  strengthen synaptic connections in young people, and help them form the sort of trusting relationships they need to sustain them throughout life.

Finally, Robbie found he had a talent: he had a brilliant nose for whiskey, and here lies the Angel Share.  But I’ve already said too much, as this is the heart of the film and you really need to see it. Suffice to say, he ended up with a job and somewhere to live out of his neighbourhood. The group then said goodbye, and the parting shot was that all you need is someone to love, a job and somewhere to live. I can’t help but wonder why in 2012 that is so hard to achieve for so many?

In this film, Ken Loach pours politics, comedy and drama into a whiskey glass and flavours it with the possibilities that come from generosity of spirit. As such, I strongly recommend it as a teaching tool for anyone learning to work with children, and will make sure that all LEYF apprentices have this on their syllabus. I also hope they too leave us singing the chorus of the classic Proclaimers anthem I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). To start you off…

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door