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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Angela's Christmas is a short (30-minute) animated movie based on Angela and the Baby Jesus, the only children's book written by Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt. The film is set in Limerick, Ireland, in 1914 and recounts an event in the life of McCourt's mother just before her sixth birthday. It tells a sweet, poignant, and ultimately heartwarming tale about family, community, and a little girl's empathy and resourcefulness. There are a few mildly tense moments as Angela hides from congregants in her church, then feels unsettled by shadows in a dark alley. Later she's chased by a policeman and momentarily scared of being sent to jail. Angela and her brother call each other names ("maggot") and scuffle; a few hits and kicks are landed, but the sequence ends in play. A short scene takes place in a bar, where men are drinking. Inspiring and funny, with gentle but important messages, the movie is highly recommended for all but the youngest or most sensitive kids, who might find even the mild suspense unsettling.
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What's the story?
It's a blustery Christmas Eve in Limerick, Ireland, when ANGELA'S CHRISTMAS begins. Angela (voiced by Lucy O'Connell) is almost 6 years old. Her harried widowed mom (Ruth Negga) is struggling to get her four kids ready for church. Angela is fighting with Pat (Brendan Mullens), one of her two big brothers, which doesn't make things any easier. And the fact that they don't even have enough coats to fit everyone is troubling as well. It's very cold in St. Joseph's Catholic Church as Angela's family joins the worshippers. The little girl can't help but notice that baby Jesus, who lies only in a diaper in the nativity scene's manger, must be freezing. It worries her so much that after the service, she secretly vows to make sure he's warm. As the narrator says, "Little ideas are often the seeds of big trouble." And so it is with Angela, who finds that her best intentions lead to an adventure she never expected.
Is it any good?
With its uplifting concept, inventive story, lovely animation, performances, and music, this is a movie destined for repeat viewing by families who enjoy sharing holiday classics. Angela's Christmas packs a lot into 30 minutes of storytelling. Without any of the material trappings of the Christmas season, and with none of the modern conveniences and distractions, Angela's story is simple, heartfelt, funny, and well-told, a reminder of what holiday spirit and giving are all about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the setting in Angela's Christmas. What did the movie tell you about Limerick, Ireland, in 1914? About its people? Its kids? About how the community came together? Give some examples of how life there was different from our world today. Despite those differences, what feels familiar?
Pat and Angela were pretty typical as brother and sister. Did their fighting and name-calling seem real to you? What were Pat's true feelings about his sister? How did the movie show those true feelings? Have you ever had to stand up for a brother or sister?
What made the priest change his mind about Angela at the movie's end? How did you know he wasn't mad at her anymore?
Why did Angela "steal" the baby Jesus? Can you think of a time when it might be OK to do the wrong thing for the right reasons?
What character strengths were on display here?
- On DVD or streaming: November 30, 2018
- Cast: Lucy O'Connell, Ruth Negga, Malachy McCourt
- Director: Damien O'Connor
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, History, Holidays
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 30 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: April 4, 2021
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