Angela's Ashes
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

I haven't read the book but I have now seen the movie. So I can't compare the two. I hear from other reviews that the movie is much less depressing than the book. That's hard to believe.  This is the true story of Frank McCourt's childhood in Ireland.  The Angela of the title is his mother and this film follows Frank from when he is a toddler until he leaves home to make his own way in the world. Three young actors play Frank as he grows up.  All three, playing Frank at ages 5, 10 and 15, are quite good although it is a bit jarring when they switch from one to the next.  His parents are played by Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle.  Young Frank and his siblings, most of whom die at an early age, grow up in the Third-World-like squalor of Limerick Ireland in the 30's.  It's hard to believe that they are soft-peddling the story here. It is stunning that anyone could have survived this childhood.  Ok. So it's a bit depressing but it's a beautiful movie and the performances are excellent.  Robert Carlyle is amazing as always in the role of Frank's good-for-nothing father who can never hold down a job and drinks away the dole money.  He is a joy to watch in any film and is becoming more appreciated after turns in The World is Not Enough, The Full Monty and Trainspotting.  Emily Watson is also good as the long-suffering mother although she spends most of her time looking worried as she takes a long draw on her cigarette and tells Carlyle that he is a ``worthless fuck."  The hatreds between Catholic and Protestant, and between Northern and Southern Ireland are played out starkly here.  The cinematography is wonderfully drab making the whole small world of Limerick look wet and grey. I don't think the sun shone one day in Frank McCourt's childhood.  At one point, young Frank writes a composition in school about how lucky Jesus was not to have to grow up in Limerick. Needless to say, after a childhood like this, one has to grow up to be a writer!  The film is a bit reminscient of My Left Foot.  In both films, the families weather their misfortunes (much more successfully in My Left Foot) and the children manage to retain something of their childhood not quite realizing how badly off they are. Go see this movie and be glad that like Jesus you didn't have to grow up in Limerick.