Compelling and Inspirational
In My Left Foot (1989), Daniel Day-Lewis took on the real character of a feisty man born with cerebral palsy and delivered an amazing performance that earned him a Best Actor Oscar. The film also received an Academy Award nomination as Best Picture. After watching the digitally re-mastered Collector’s Series just out from Miramax, I was reminded what a magnificent film My Left Foot is. Credit must also go to Hugh O'Conor (Bloom), who does a magnificent job playing Christy as a child.
The movie is based on the autobiography of Irish artist and writer Christy Brown. His illness, brought on by a brain disorder, couldn’t have landed in a more unsuitable family, yet once the end credits roll, it’s apparent that maybe it was the best family for Brown after all. He was born into what would become a very large (the real family had 21 children) Irish family. Three girls sleeping in one bed, three boys in another, etc. Dealing with the paralysis of her son’s every limb except his left foot was not something Christy’s mother (Brenda Fricker) was prepared to handle or that his pa (Ray McAnally) even had any desire to try to deal with.
His brothers and sisters were quick to include Christy in their games and plans, and his mother always over-compensated for him. Brenda Fricker, marvelous as the mother, was adept at occasionally offering a moment revealing the guilt her character felt for her son’s deformity. Mr. Brown, on the other hand, had mostly contempt for the boy. One look at him and he would be out the door and on the way to the pub where one beer after another would soon ease the pain of his fellow bar mates’ cajoling.
Director Jim Sheridan, who co-wrote the screenplay, showed us then and again a few years later in In America, the autobiographical story of a young family coming to America, what overcoming tragedy and inspiration are all about.
Christy Brown finds that inspiration when he discovers he can draw, type and paint with his left foot. He becomes an artist who gets his own show thanks to a physical therapist, Eileen Cole (Fiona Shaw), and Christy falls madly in love with her. He thinks she feels the same way about him, until in a restaurant scene she announces that she is engaged. That’s when Christy goes into one of his rages, becomes quite unruly and once he’s back home even attempts suicide. His drinking and despondency were traits that happened often during his formative years. He breaks that cycle when he begins to type his own story, and it becomes a book.
Christy is also quite a cad. He has a thing for the ladies and eventually falls for Mary (Ruth McCabe), an attendant who meets him when he’s being honored at a dinner. They eventually marry.
Another scene that demonstrates Sheridan’s writing and directing skills -- and also exemplifies Ray McAnally’s acting talent -- is when Christy does something (deliberately omitted here because I don’t want to spoil the moment) that makes Ray pick him up, swing him over his shoulder and announce, “I’m taking me boy to lift a mug.”
In the end, we catch glimpses of a handicapped man who transcends the word in every way, and a family of people who so love each other that they build a room for Christy one brick at a time. This wonderful film, perfect in setting the scene of the era and locale, could not be a better story of hope and inspiration.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
● The Real Christy Brown Story – No appearance by the real Christy Brown, he passed away shortly after the original film was made, but others talk about him and his life.
● An Inspirational Journey: The Making of My Left Foot – a discussion by the filmmakers, producers and others involved in getting the rights to the story and creating the film.
● Film reviews by noted critics Charles Champlin, David Denby, Pauline Kael, and Elvis Mitchell.
● Enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions
● Dolby Digital 5.1
● French and Spanish subtitles available.
(Released by Miramax Home Entertainment and rated “R.” DVD bonus features unrated.)
Read Diana Saenger's reviews of classic films at http://classicfilm.about.com.