Angela's Ashes


Directed by: Alan Parker
Written by:Laura Jones
Starring: Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciarna Owens, Michael Legge
Released: May 18, 2000
Grade: B+

People love seeing a movie where someone reaches the pits of hell before rising above adversity to make something of themselves.  Erin Brockovich was a perfect example.  With no prospects and down to her final few bucks, she turned it around with a touch of luck and changed her life forever.  I’m sure the script has been a major factor in the film’s worldwide success.

Angela’s Ashes follows in a similar vein.  Based on the autobiographical best seller, Frank McCourt’s account of his childhood in Ireland takes misery and desperation to a new level.  This is divided into three “chapters”, each showing a separate part of his upbringing.  His mother struggled with illness whilst trying to feed her starving family.  His father could never find work and when he did, managed to spend it all on alcohol.  He lost younger brothers and sisters because of lacking medical attention.  His life couldn’t have been much worse but somehow from within, a talented individual was crafted.

Frank developed an interest for writing at school and over time longed to travel to America to further his career and his ambitions.  In the back of our mind we all know it’s going to work out for him in the end but I could not believe the pain and torment he went through to come this far.

There isn’t a lot to smile about in Angela’s Ashes making it a heavy viewing experience but like most true stories, the plot is extremely interesting.  Alan Parker’s direction was tough.  His use of the few sets and reiterated camera angles works very well and provides the truly morbid setting.

Performances were admirable with Robert Carlyle standing out as the father.  Creating a character that is both loved and despised, Carlyle surpasses most expectations.  Emily Watson shines through the gloom as the mother with three actors, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens and Michael Legge sharing the leading role of Frankie.

Overlooked at Oscar time, Angela’s Ashes will struggle to find an audience outside those already familiar with the novel.  Having not read the book, I felt I took less away from the film than I should and to me this was the film’s pitfall.  Perhaps it’s a film where the novel is best read first…