A unexpectedly cheerful Scotland fantasy from Mr. Loach. He sets up the grim realism: new dad Robbie is a habitual fuckup living out a cycle of violence and poverty – but then over the credits we get a semi-comic montage of other young fuckups being assigned community service, including hilariously dense baldie Albert, compulsive shoplifter Mo, and less-distinguishable Rhino (William Ruane of Loach’s Sweet Sixteen). The four end up in a work program under whiskey enthusiast Harry (John Henshaw of Red Riding), and Robbie (Paul Brannigan, whom Katy thinks is hot, soon to appear in Jonathan Glazer’s first film since Birth) proves to have a fine nose for whisky.
Harry is full of empathy for his young charges, especially Robbie, and Robbie also has his girl Leonie (and, to a much lesser extent, her dad) on his side, so we’re all set for a heartwarming story where Robbie grows away from his violent past and gets a whiskey-related job with collector Roger Allam (Peter Mannion in The Thick of It season 2; Katy says he looks too much like Christopher Hitchens). And we get that, but after one last heist, as the four pilfer some of the rarest whisky in the world from a recently-discovered cask on its eve of auction. Movie might be giving its hopeless protag too easy of a ride out of the slums, too many side characters willing to spend their time, love and money on him, but for a director whose work is usually called “miserablism,” it’s forgiveable.