Based on Irish expat Frank McCourt‘s Pulitzer Prize winning memoir Angela’s Ashes, this 1999 film adaptation shows us how he grew up in the wretched slums of Limerick during the Depression. It is clear from the start food is as scarce as employment, poverty is rife, disease is a precursor to death and squalor is everywhere. Nevertheless despite all the tragedies that befall this family including their pathetic alcoholic father figure who uses even welfare money for the drink instead of feeding his babies, Frankie seems to find some joy in life and builds his dreams on escaping to America while even managing to love his irresponsible dad. It is the rich variety of characters and experiences he has along the way to achieving this that makes this story so poignant and moving. Frank’s Irish Catholic upbringing is given a lot of focus on the film as well as the rank hypocrisy of the church.
The film is brutal in its depiction of the bleak and sad life that was had to be in Ireland with the drab brown and grey tones pervading it. Nevertheless it is still injected with doses of optimism and humour, sometimes from the most unexpected quarters. Robert Carlyle does a great job as the laconic and irresponsible Malachy while Emily Watson seems to bear the patience of a saint as she portrays the self-sacrificing woman who was Angela, Frank McCourt’s mother and the namesake of the film. The three boys who portrayed Frank were all great actors in their own right so kudos to the casting people.
Despite Angela having a husband who rarely if ever fulfilled his obligations as a father, she is the rock who made Frank determined to achieve his goal and move on from the past. It is clear she was a good-hearted person who coped with immense hardships that were thrown in her way. Ultimately while this is a tragic movie about the pain and suffering one can undergo for the love of one’s children, the ultimate triumph at the end eclipses it all.
While this is a good movie, it is possibly because it stays true to the heart of the book most of the time. If you want to watch it but haven’t read the book yet, I suggest trying it out first. Angela’s Ashes may be an uplifting story in its final message but it is not a happy one. After seeing this, you might want to think twice about complaining about your lot in life and eat humble pie instead!
The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez was actually an interesting book despite its tendency to go into explanations of mathematical theory using formulae that was gibberish to me. For a book that talked heaps about math, it was enjoyable. I may have worked in the past as a supermarket cashier but this algebraic equations stuff was forgotten quickly after high school. We are introduced to a young protagonist, a Spanish scholarship student who is undertaking a mathematics PhD in London. He’s lodging with an old woman, a war veteran widow, who is suffering from cancer and her pretty carer, the violinist Emily. He has barely settled in when the old woman is murdered.
He arrives at the murder scene at the same time as another famous mathematician residing in London. The two come to the conclusion the work is characteristic of a serial killer who is trying to commit “imperceptible murders” and advances this theory to the police. They too try to predict the pattern of the murders on their own by studying mathematic patterns and reading up on psychological profiles. In the middle of this is the story about Fermat’s Theorem being solved by Andrew Wiles (who actually spent 25 years on it by the way). What is funny is that I finished reading The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson recently and it also tells us the story of Fermat’s Theorem as an anecdote. This French mathematician is a popular fellow in the literary world.
To get back to the crux of it, there are three more murders but the fourth doesn’t fit the pattern. It turns out there is a connection at the hospital where his girlfriend works to a father, who’s a bus driver, waiting for his kid to receive a kidney transplant. He has been mentally affected by the necessity of Christians to have a full body for burial to preserve their souls. When our main character realises how far a parent would go for their child, he realises the truth about who the real murderer is and manages to figure out who “committed” the ensuing murders. If you are interested, there is also a movie based on the book starring Elijah Wood. I thought it was funny I read this book at the time of this Google Doodle.