Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes was successful because he infused his poverty-stricken youth with wit, hope, and a knack for storytelling. Alan Parker's film adaptation enlivens a miserable story with romanticized ghettos, beautifully soot-stained urchins, and other tragedies made pretty.
Three boys play McCourt at various stages of his life. Emily Watson works well as mother Angela, a woman tormented by her husband's (Robert Carlyle) alcoholism. Instead of unleashing the destructive unpredictability of a drunk dad, director Alan Parker settles for pleasant vignettes and apt details, glossing over of the grim bits that tragically enlivened the book's narrative.