This film, which was a surprise winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, begins as a hard-edged and extremely realistic account of the fortunes of three young men and a girl, all offenders, who appear in court for a variety of minor crimes. One, however, has been in prison for a serious and brutal assault, and he is the central character in the film. Memorably played by Paul Brannigan, whose own life apparently has parallels with that of the character, he just escapes prison again, partly because he now has a stable relationship with a good woman, Leonie, and is about become a father ; he is ready to put his old life behind him if he can. But he has enemies, and they are out to get him, and the offer from Leonie's father of £5000 if he will leave and never reappear in Glasgow is one that, at one point, he gloomily sees as the only option. All four come under the wing of a kindly Community Service Supervision Officer, Harry, excellently played by John Henshaw, with whom they paint derelict halls and clean gravestones. But then, on his day off, he takes them to a distillery, where Robbie finds he has a 'nose' - a natural talent for judging and identifying fine whiskies. The plot moves on, with a second visit to what is probably the Malt Whisky Society and the news that a cask of 'malt mill', an exceedingly rare, distinguished and expensive whisky, is to be auctioned up north. The four young people form a plan and, donning kilts, make their way north, where various things happen ; and the end of the film is hopeful and distinctly 'feel-good'.
This film moves, as does Robbie, from the hard reality of a brutal and bleak, violent, drug-ridden council-estate life to escape and real hope for him, his partner and their child, Luke. The earlier part of it includes stark scenes - he is attacked and badly beaten in a hospital, he is chased through the streets by his traditional enemies who would do him real damage but for the intervention of his partner's father, and in a very effective scene he has a meeting with the young man whom he himself assaulted in the incident which led to his imprisonment, and with his parents and girl friend (or possibly sister) ; the mother goes for him and all he can do is weep - he is now a father himself and can begin to understand how she feels. Once the four leave Glasgow and make their way north, however, the 'feel' of the film changes with the scenery, and it becomes much less hard-edged. This part of the film is very enjoyable - funny in places, and with a compelling plot - but there has to be some suspension of disbelief ; several times I found myself thinking, 'Could that really happen?'. In this film, it does, and you are glad for the lad, his girl and his friends. So I don't think it can be classed as a great film, but it is involving, engagingly unusual, and extremely well made and acted. It is certainly 'different' and well worth seeing.