Ken Loach is a renowned British film director who has been producing films for the best part of 40 years. One of his regular collaborators is Paul Laverty, a writer who has penned numerous screenplays. Having worked together on several award winning films over the years, including the likes of The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Sweet Sixteen, Route Irish and Bread and Roses, they have come together once again.
The Angels’ Share tells the story of a disparate bunch of Scottish friends, all of whom have achieved little in their lives, except getting involved in Glasgow gang culture and managing to avoid prison. Following their attempts to turn their lives around, the film goes against the assumed grain of Loach/Laverty productions, with its feel-good nature centred around the success of the underdogs. Here both writer and director talk about their involvement with the film, why kids from certain areas should be given a chance, and getting certain swear words pass the censors.
Congratulations on the Jury Prize win at Cannes, first of all.
Thank you very much.
How did the film come about?
Well, I suppose it was a long conversation, really, one film goes into another. But the starting off point was a kind of a fury at the way young people are treated. There are just so many people now that are deemed to have no future. There's no pretence anymore that they will not have a future and they will not have a job. And that's a general thing, but when you go in and speak to them, it's the humiliation that really gets you.
I remember one guy that I was talking to, I asked him, 'How many jobs have you applied for in the last six weeks?' and he goes, 'Two hundred and ten.' 'How many responses have you had?' 'Zero.' I mean, they don't even get the dignity of rejection, never mind an interview. So they just give up on it, because it's just actually a pointless exercise for many of these kids.
I mean, there's a whole group of graduates just now who've got no future, so the Robbies of this world are just assumed to have no future at all. Many of them can't even get into the Army. So when you actually see that face-to-face, it's like a life sentence, you know? And it's absolutely vindictive and it's fierce and somehow they're still blamed for it, so I suppose that was the starting point.
It's fair to say that people don't really expect you to do an unashamedly feel-good film. I mean, personally, right up until the end, I was expecting something terrible to happen.
Somebody told me last night they were waiting for the van to explode! [Laughs]
So why a straight-up comedy and was it hard to let go of the darker elements one often expects in your films?
Well, it is quite serious in parts. We didn't want to underplay the circumstances Paul had described. But I think it's interesting to be able to tell the story in a way that people don't expect, for the reasons you say. It takes people by surprise. And it's also true to the characters, because they do make you smile and they are funny and that is what they're like. The jokes they play on each other and the daftness of it and the kind of wit, I mean, they're kids, that's what they do. It seemed true to them to tell it like this.
Was it a conscious decision then, to have the surprising element be as much what doesn't happen as what does happen?
I think you're always playing with that tension, as you're going through, you always go, 'Well, what might be expected here?' So that's a constant thing that you wrestle with in the shape of the narrative all the time.
And also trying to be true to the characters, true to what they would do. I mean, the thing is, Clancy and the gang that he's threatened by, he'll not move out of his territory. He's in a particular part of the east end of Glasgow and that's him, he's not going to go beyond that. So if Robbie isn't there, the problem has disappeared.