For the News-Democrat
What It's About
What do you get when you mix scamps, scalliwags, a bus full of nuns, malt whiskey and the song "500 Miles"? A whispy Scottish comedy-drama about redemption.
Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is a reformed thug who has turned around his life, thanks to a baby mama Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) and infant son Luke. A community payback sentence of 300 hours gives him plenty of time to bond with fellow hooligans -- in trouble because of fights, drinking and/or stealing. Rhino, Albert and Mo are in the same boat Robbie's in, and want to get their life back on track. But because of their criminal records, it's an uphill battle finding work.
An opportunity comes along, and it's rather unusual. In this case, whiskey could actually save their lives -- as in business, sales and manufacturing.
The journey teaches them about themselves. And there's Big Harry (John Henshaw) to help Robbie find his way on a long and very winding road.
A rag-tag of actors from the United Kingdom give this little charmer an authentic feel. The Scottish brogues are so thick that IFC has subtitled the movie. Personally, I love to hear Scottish people talk, and the subtitles are not a distraction.
These characters are not the sharpest tools in the shed, and therefore, comedic opportunities abound. You know these people.
Director Ken Loach ("The Wind That Shook the Barley") collaborates well with screenwriter Ken Laverty, and they provide a good array of local color. The story's compelling, and the circumstances are very real.
What Doesn't Work
There isn't a speck of Hollywood slickness, so if you are not used to the natural approach of European filmmakers, you might feel this film is lacking. But hardly -- it has a sweetness with the sorrow in this quirky tale, and you won't mind the time invested.
3 stars out of 4
Director: Ken Loach
Starring: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, Siobhan Reilly, William Ruane