Angela's Ashes (film)

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Angela's Ashes
Angelas ashes ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan Parker
Produced byDavid Brown
Scott Rudin
Screenplay byLaura Jones
Alan Parker
Based onAngela's Ashes
by Frank McCourt
Narrated byAndrew Bennett
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyMichael Seresin
Edited byGerry Hambling
Distributed byParamount Pictures
(North America)
Universal Pictures
Release date
  • 25 December 1999 (1999-12-25)
Running time
145 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom[1]
United States[1]
Budget$25 million[2]
Box office$13 million[2]

Angela's Ashes is a 1999 drama film based on the memoir of the same name by Frank McCourt. An international co-production between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland,[1] it was co-written and directed by Alan Parker, and stars Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, and Michael Legge, the latter three playing the Young, Middle, and Older Frank McCourt, respectively.


Angela's Ashes tells the story of Frank McCourt and his childhood after his family are forced to move from the United States back to Ireland because of financial difficulties and family problems caused by his father's alcoholism. The film chronicles young McCourt's life in Limerick, Ireland, during his childhood in the 1930s and 1940s, the difficulties that arose, and Frank's way of earning enough money to return to the land of his dreams: America.

The McCourt family return to Limerick after the death of Frank's younger sister, Margaret. Shortly after their arrival one of the twin brothers, Oliver dies, within a few weeks, so does his twin Eugene. Frank's father, Malachy Sr., is unable to keep a job, and squanders the family's money on alcohol. He is too proud to beg or to collect much needed coal from the streets.

Angela, Frank's mother is forced to go to charitable organisations to beg for furniture whilst Malachy Sr. signs up for the dole.

The McCourt family lives in a small house where the entire street shares one lavatory that just happens to be outside the McCourts front door. Frank and Malachy Jr. come home one day to find that the downstairs of the home has badly flooded. Upstairs, a new brother, Michael, has been born and Frank is told that the angel brought him.

Malachy Sr. berates Angela for begging for clothes and boots for her children and tries to prove his worth as a husband and father. The boys are tormented in school for their ratty clothing and shoes and Frank even goes so far as to take his off and hide them.

As Frank's teacher remarks, there are boys in the class who have no shoes at all and they should not take pleasure in each other's misfortunes. Malachy Sr. looks for a job everyday but due to his "funny manner" and northern accent he is unsuccessful. Around Easter Malachy Sr. receives his first job in Limerick, at the cement factory. Unfortunately, the money he earns is spent in the pubs rather than on food for his family.

Malachy Sr., in a particularly poignant scene arrives home singing old songs about Ireland. He gets the boys out of bed and makes them promise to die for Ireland, for the "Friday penny". He oversleeps and loses his job the next day.

The boys in school are taught how to take communion bread/wafers. Frank's friend Mikey is an "expert" on "all things dirty", specifically a warped idea of the female anatomy. The boys are taken to church in their school classes and are each told to go in for a first confession.

Frank sleeps in on the day of his first communion and his grandmother reacts harshly, as she tries to rectify the situation, criticising Frank and Malachy Sr. Frank is eager to "make the collection", an act in which children who've just had their first communion wander around the town in their new communion clothes and are given sweets and money by their neighbours.

Franks grandmother takes the family back to her house for a communion breakfast but Frank vomits up the food. His grandmother takes Frank back to the church to confess his sins.

Mikey, without a collection still wants to celebrate. He manages to sneak into the cinema.

His parents sign Frank up for Irish dancing, which he predictably hates. He skips the dancing lessons and instead goes to the cinema, unknown to his parents. He then goes home and makes up dances for his parents.



Although set in Limerick, many street scenes were filmed in Cork. For example, the 'fleas in the mattress' scene was filmed at Farren Street, Blackpool and other scenes were shot at Roche's Buildings, Lower John Street and Barrack Street.[3]


With an estimated $25 million budget,[4] the film grossed $13,042,112 in the US,[5] making it a box-office bomb.

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 51% based on reviews from 86 critics. The site's consensus states: "In spite of its attempts to accurately record Frank McCourt's memoirs, the onscreen adaptation fails to capture any of the drama or humor of his life".[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7]

Michael Legge was praised for his portrayal of the adolescent Frank. In particular, he was said to excel in his role as an innocent teenager growing up with typical coming of age rites involving sexuality, maturity and peer pressure in a Catholic Irish setting.[citation needed]

Differences from the book[edit]

  • In the book, the opening paragraph describes Angela's upbringing. It tells how Angela's brother Pat became developmentally disabled by being dropped on the ground by Angela's father throwing him in the air, and that Angela's pregnant mother told him to leave, so he "ran out the door and didn't stop till he got to Australia". The film omits this.
  • In the film, when Angela suggests naming Frank's new brother Alphonsus, and Frank exclaims that it's a stupid name, Aggie smacks the back of Frank's head. In the book, Angela slaps Frank across the face so hard he reels backwards.
  • In the film, Frank says that Irish dancers look like they have metal rods up their arses, but in the book it is Frank's father who says that.
  • The end of the film shows Frank sailing past the Statue of Liberty as he arrives in New York City. In the book he lands at Poughkeepsie.



The film soundtrack was composed and conducted by John Williams, and features songs by Billie Holiday and Sinéad O'Connor with narration on tracks 2, 4–15 and 17 by actor Andrew Bennett. Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2000 for his score but lost to The Red Violin, scored by John Corigliano.

Home media[edit]

Angela's Ashes was originally released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on VHS and DVD format on 17 July 2000, via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[8][9] The DVD set retained the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with Dolby Digital 5.1, and included a number of special features, including, a behind-the-scenes featurette, cast and crew interviews, commentaries by Alan Parker and Frank McCourt, and two trailers. This set was again re-issued in 2003 with identical artwork, while the only difference being the redesigning of the BBFC certificate logo, which updated in 2002. A DVD box set release was made available on 8 September 2008, which included the DVD and the original book.[10]

The film was additionally released within multiple sets, including a three-tape VHS set which features the film with Billy Elliot and Stepmom, on 15 September 2003,[11] and a "Back 2 Back" VHS edition with Billy Elliot on 16 February 2004,[12] The set containing the film with Billy Elliot and Stepmom was released once again as part of a "3 Disc Anthology" DVD set on 2 October 2005.[13]

On 31 October 2016, Angela's Ashes received its first-ever Blu-ray release via Final Cut Entertainment. It contains a newly remastered HD transfer, with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, as well as LPMC 2.0 audio. All special features from the previous DVD releases are included, with the inclusion of a new feature, "Alan's Ashes"—an interview with Alan Parker.[14][15]

In the United States and Canada, the distribution rights are held by Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment. Angela's Ashes was first released on VHS format,[16] while the film was released to DVD as part of Paramount's "Widescreen Collection" on 18 July 2000, and contained a non-anamorphic-widescreen letterboxed version.[17] A "Special Edition" VHS was made available on 5 December 2000.[18] The DVD received a re-issue on 20 September 2017.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d "Angela's Ashes (EN)". Lumiere. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Angela's Ashes (1999) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ Blackpool Historical Society, Cork
  4. ^ Angela's Ashes. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  5. ^ Angela's Ashes. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Angela's Ashes (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  7. ^ "Angela's Ashes (1999)". Metacritic. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Angela's Ashes (VHS) (1999)". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Angela's Ashes [DVD] [2000]". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Angela's Ashes DVD". 8 September 2008.
  11. ^ "Billy Elliot/Angela's Ashes/Stepmom [VHS]". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Billy Elliot/Angela's Ashes [VHS]". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Angela's Ashes / Stepmom / Billy Elliot [DVD]". 3 October 2005. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Angela's Ashes Blu Ray [Blu-ray]". 31 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Angela's Ashes Blu-ray". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  16. ^ Angela's Ashes. ASIN 630587204X.
  17. ^ Angela's Ashes. ISBN 0792163087.
  18. ^ "Angela's Ashes VHS". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Angela's Ashes". Retrieved 1 October 2017.

External links[edit]