Stars: Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle
Based on the book by Frank McCourt, and seen through the eyes of a young Frank, “Angela’s Ashes” is set in the slums of Limerick, Ireland between 1935-1945. It’s a film about unrelenting rain, drunkenness, piss, vomit, cruelty, disease and death. Two and a half hours worth. It is unbearably depressing and thus, nearly unwatchable.
The film details the McCourt family, Angela (Emily Watson), a virtual babymaking machine, churning out one after the other; some live, some die; Malachy, Sr. (Robert Carlyle), a mostly unemployed drunken pig who would rather see his family starve or freeze to death than miss a pint of beer, a variety of children of differing ages of whom Frank (played by 3 different actors) is the oldest and narrator upon whom this story revolves.
It begins in Brooklyn, New York in 1935. When Angela’s newborn dies, the family inexplicably decides to move back to Ireland where everyone is dying of starvation or consumption and that’s precisely what they and we see happening for the length of the movie. It’s one dreary scene after another.
We are given the impression later on that Frank is of some higher standard over his father, yet when he leaves his mother and younger brothers at the age of 15 and finds a job, he does nothing to help support them; he simply stashes his wages away along with money stolen from the town’s moneylender to eventually book passage to America.
There are no likeable or innocent or the heroic characters in this story. Certainly not Frank, simply because he manages to get back to the land of the free, while leaving everyone else behind.
You can’t fault the actors; they do their jobs admirably.
Autobiographical material of this nature (a Pulitzer-prize winner) may indeed work for a book (obviously lots of people thought it did) but as far as film goes, it’s just stomach churning and exhausting to watch. At least you can put a book down when you’ve had too much in one sitting.
The screenplay is by Laura Jones and Alan Parker. Parker directed.
Lotta says: I wonder what advertising ploy they’re going to use to get people into the theaters – “Come watch people starve and die”? Your answer should be “No, thanks, Lotta’s already done that for me. Poor Lotta, she must be a saint!”