A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Overcoming incredible hardships. Showing perseverance and endurance to strive for a better life.
Positive Role Models
Frank (or Francis) is a child who carries on in the face of adversity, growing up in poverty with a father prone to alcoholism, and struck by family tragedy. Malachy is a man who struggles to find work and loses jobs as a result of his drinking. He loves his children but often disappears for long periods of time. Angela is the family mother who suffers the loss of infant and young children. She does what she can to keep the family going. Teachers and priests are among the many adults that hit children as punishment. Aunt Agna is often angry, judgemental, and prejudiced against Northern Irish people.
There are some examples of gender stereotyping. For example, a boy says dancing is for "sissies," while emptying the chamberpot is described as "women's work." But one woman is shown to be strong-willed and determined, doing far more for her family than her husband. A character with a hunched back is defined by this and nicknamed "Quasimodo." Characters are discriminated against because of their class and Northern Irish father.
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Violence & Scariness
Adults constantly hit children, whether that be teachers and priests at school or parents and relatives at home. Kids fight in a school yard, throwing punches before being split up by a teacher. A character throws food at someone and attacks their child, causing their face to be bloodied and bruised. A drunk teen shouts at their mother and slaps her face. Gunfire is shown in a clip from the movie Angels with Dirty Faces. A sheep's head is placed on a shop counter.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens spy on two siblings who are bathing topless. Teenage boys also line up along a wall masturbating and are shown nude from behind. Character stands naked, buttocks shown, while another comments on his penis (not shown) saying he has a "fine boyo." They then strip to their underwear. Implied sexual behavior. A husband tells his wife she'll be "damned" for not performing her "marital duties" when she refuses sex. Non-sexual nudity with young children washing in a bath.
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Frequent language includes "arse," "fart," "s--t," "bastards," "wanking," "t-ts," "piss," "bloody," "shite," "bitch," as well as Irish slang "feck" and "fecking."
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Products & Purchases
Guinness beer mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A character living with alcohol addiction is a big factor in the story -- a parent spends what little money they get in the pub instead of providing for the family. They are often shown drunk. In one scene, they rest their pint glass on their own child's coffin. In another, they are shown vomiting in the street. They are also sacked from their job because of their drinking. Many characters drink beer and smoke cigarettes. A 16-year-old gets drunk, causes a scene, shouts at their mother and slaps her.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Angela's Ashes is an often bleak biopic story of growing up in Ireland during the 1930s with depictions of alcohol addiction and the death of children. Based on author Frank McCourt's memoir, the movie features the loss of a baby and two young children -- two young corpses are shown. Frank's father, Malachy (Robert Carlyle), has a dependency on alcohol and spends the family's money in the pub before disappearing for long stretches. This increases the poverty and discrimination his family face. Frank's mother, Angela (Emily Watson), is a strong role model as she endures much hardship to provide for her children. Teachers and priests regularly hit children, as do other adults. Many characters smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. A drunk teen slaps his mother and other negative drunken behavior is shown. Characters are shown vomiting both as a result of drinking too much and due to illness. When a teen, Frank and his friends spy on two topless sisters and line up along a wall masturbating. The movie shows the prejudice Irish Catholics held against Northern Irish Protestant families, as well as the English. The movie features strong language such as "s--t" and "bitch," as well as Irish slang such as "feck." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.