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Parents' Guide to

Angela's Ashes

By Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Bleak Irish biopic has drinking, infant deaths, language.

Movie R 2000 145 minutes
Angela's Ashes Poster Image

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When a film opens with narration declaring "this is the story of my miserable Irish Catholic childhood" and within four minutes a baby has died, you know it's not likely to get its own Disney ride. The trudge of family tragedy in Angela's Ashes continues early on with a further two infant deaths. Thankfully director Alan Parker balances heartbreak with slight moments of light. Seeing the bleak, rainy, flooded slums of 1930s Ireland through the eyes of the young lead character, we're spared the total despair of his parent's grief and sometimes find fun in the dirtiest corners of the drab streets. When young Frank finds a love of reading when in hospital suffering from typhoid, there's the first ray of hope that things could change for him.

Three actors play Frank -- or Francis to give him his full name -- and the movie seamlessly flows through time as he grows up. Constant throughout is Frank's mother, Angela, played by Emily Watson. An actor who shines brightest when playing a character burying heartache, Watson is the human heart at the center of the family. The quiet desperation in the spirit of Frank's alcohol-dependent father, Malachy, is equally well played by Robert Carlyle. Rather than outright condemning Malachy, Angela's Ashes is refreshingly matter of fact, befitting a measured look back at a desperately difficult time.

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