Figure 1.--This is the movie poster picturing a young Frank McCourt.
Laura Jones and Alan Parker's adaptated Frank McCourt's autobiography Angela's Ashes for the screen. Frank McCourt was a New York City school teacher who decided to write down the stories he had been telling his students. Splendid performances by Watson and Carlyle keep this flick from approaching any kind of stereotype and, as I wrote up top, I want more.
For the McCourt Family, the Promise of America was a failed one. Having arrived in the midst of the Great Depression, Malachy (Robert Carlyle) is just another one of millions of unemployed head of households. His wife Angela (Emily Watson) has her hands full with the three boys she climbed off the boat with and, as this flick starts, the family is blessed by the arrival of their first girl. By the time this flick is, oh, maybe half an hour old, if you're not thanking whatever Higher Power there is that you live in America in the present day, you should be -- the depths of this family's poverty is crushing and the support systems we have today didn't exist back then.
Back then, there was only a kindly upstair neighbor to help. When the newborn Margaret Mary dies, the Irish shores look a lot greener than the streets of Brooklyn. So back the family goes Limerick to find the situation there as wretched as when they left. Angela's family is still ticked off that she married a man from the North; the Catholic-Protestant troubles are always simmering underneath this story. Malachy has no better luck finding work than he did in the States, and most of the dole money never makes its way past he bar with the Statue of Liberty above its door. Angela fills her surviving kidlet's heads with fanciful ideas. The flooded first floor of their hovel is the damp and awful Ireland. Their tiny two rooms above are the warm and toasty Italy. It's an illusion that is embraced by the kids 'cuz it's the best that mom can do.
This is not a story making light of poverty. When seen from a kid's eye view (oldest son Frank narrates the movie) there's a lot of humor to be found when you don't know how bad off things really are. Frank is played by three actors (Joe Breen, Ciaren Owens and Michael Legge), screen aging from 5 to 15 years. As he grows, Frank grows world weary before his time.
There is a funny scene in where the main
charactor Frank, who is around 12, gets money to attend Irish dance
lessons and just fakes it in his one and only lesson. It was funny to see him stomping around making it up next to a kid who is taking it seriously. He fakes it again for his parents when they ask him to show them what he has learned. They don't know his stomping around from real Irish dancing. This limited view of Irish dance is one of the few such scenes that we can recall in any movie. This reflects the fact that it was virtually unknown outside the Irish community until the appearance of River Dance. An Irish dancer writes, "Although Its very breif, The costume was pretty much ok, But no one ever wore his medals like that unless he was a complete plonker, From what I can remember it was a safron kilt and grey jacket, Years ago Safron and dark green were the 2 biggest kilt colours, I suppose easy to dye."
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