Netflix UK film review: Angela’s Christmas Wish
James R | On 12, Dec 2020
If you had to name a Christmas film that would spawn a sequel, Angela’s Christmas is unlikely to top the list. The 2018 animated short, based on a story by Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt, was a sincere fable of family and love, as we saw young Angela (Lucy O’Connell) steal the baby Jesus from the church nativity as she was worried he might be cold.
This follow-up takes us back to Limerick in the 1910s, but this time focuses on a wish that’s closer to home. We join Angela and her family – including her Mam (Ruth Negga) and brother (Oscar Butler) – years after their Da boarded a boat to Australia. With Christmas on the horizon, Angela has one hope for the festive season: that her Da comes home. Well, that and a doll she spies in the local toy shop window.
There’s some humour to be found as she glumly presumes that she’ll get some socks instead, but that’s gradually replaced the more thoughtful longing that’s felt by the whole family. Like the first Angela’s outing, the film finds its strength in its almost melancholic stillness, which is balanced with an energetic childlike perspective on the gorgeously rendered world. And so we follow Angela and her brother as they find ways to bring their father home from the other side of the world, whether it’s by digging in the garden or sneaking through the city docks.
The cast are once again exceptional, from O’Connell’s sparky central presence to the thoughtful tones of Ruth Negga and Jared Harris. But it’s Oscar Butler who brings a heartbreaking note to the ensemble, when he and Angela sing a poignant ditty in a local pub.
This sequel is longer than the first, and notably lacks source material from Frank McCourt to adapt, but with Ellen McCourt remaining on board as an exec-producer, writer and director Damien O’Connor crafts something that feels faithful in spirit to the last offering. It may not have the same simplicity, but it’s a richly moving story that, in a year where seeing loved ones is not guaranteed, doesn’t fail to tug at the heartstrings.