Because Frank McCourt's bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela's Ashes
was dearly embraced by millions of readers, it was perhaps inevitable that Alan Parker's film version would prove somewhat disappointing. McCourt's book is blessed with subtleties of language and detailed observation that do not easily lend themselves to screen interpretation, and Parker's film suffers from an overly literal, reverently sombre approach that lacks the cumulative emotions of McCourt's account of impoverished youth in Ireland. And where McCourt was able to enliven his family's suffering with tenacious humour and fighting Irish spirit, Parker's film provides precious little uplift in the course of 145 minutes.
The film is by no means an artistic failure. While admirably avoiding sentiment, Parker is nearly peerless in his direction of children, and the three actors playing Frank at ages 7, 11, and 15 are uniformly superb. As photographed by Michael Seresin, the re-created lanes of Limerick, Ireland are almost painfully authentic in the cold, grey dampness that permeates nearly every scene (this is surely one of the wettest films ever made). As the McCourt parents--chronically depressed Angela and recklessly drunken Malachy--Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle successfully bypass the pitfalls of melodrama in a film that could have wallowed in bathos. And while Parker's anecdotal approach falls short in conveying the fullness of McCourt's experience (the director fared better with the Irish rockers of The Commitments), Angela's Ashes captures a specific time and place with vivid force, remaining loyal to the spirit of Frank McCourt's beloved tale of survival. --Jeff Shannon
Angela's Ashes is a 1999 Irish-American drama film based on the memoir of the same title by Frank McCourt. It was directed by Alan Parker and starred Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, and Michael Legge (the latter three playing the Young, Middle and Older Frank McCourt respectively).
Angela's Ashes tells the story of Frank McCourt and his childhood after his family are forced to move from America back to Ireland because of financial difficulties and family problems derived from his father's alcoholism. The film chronicles young McCourt's life in Limerick, Ireland, during his childhood in the 1930s and 1940s, the difficulties that ensued, and finally Frank's way of earning enough money to return to the land of his dreams: America. Michael Legge was praised for his portrayal of the adolescent Frank. In particular, he was said to acquiesce his role as an innocent teenager growing up with typical coming of age rites such as sexuality, maturity and peer pressure in a Catholic Irish setting.