My Left Foot (1989)
My Left Foot is a biopic about Christy Brown, a boy born with cerebral palsy so severe that the only control he has over his body is his titular left foot. The movie begins with Christy showing up to some kind of ceremony, and through flashbacks we learn of his birth and upbringing in his large Irish family. His dad rejects him at first, writing him off as an invalid, but his mother cares for him regardless, and soon enough he proves to his family and community that he is intelligent in spite of his condition.
While a child, Christy Brown is played by Hugh O’Conor, who does a fantastic job in a clearly difficult role. His depiction of the affliction is believable through and through, and since he is unable to speak at that point in his life, he is forced to act and emote through pained facial expressions, which end up being more than expressive enough.
While an adult, Christy is played by Daniel Day-Lewis, in one of his most famous and compelling roles, and one that won him an Oscar. Had I never seen Day-Lewis previous to this, I may have expected him to actually have the disease. Day-Lewis is amazing as always, and it’s definitely his performance that the film builds itself around. You will never tire of watching him, even as he struggles to get full sentences out. You feel for him and his unrequited love, and cheer with him in his accomplishments, whether it’s scoring a goal in a game of street soccer or painting his first picture.
Christy’s parents are also performed with excellence by Brenda Fricker and Ray McAnally. The direction is equally great, never trying too hard to infringe upon the story, but adequately portraying it and moving it along with a variety of handheld shots and shots that are so low-angle they might as well be young Christy’s point of view.
Though there may not be many cinematic aspects on which to comment, My Left Foot is exceptional for its acting and its brilliant story. Christy Brown is a man with a truly captivating history to tell, and as you watch Day-Lewis paint a picture or type some words up with the toes on his left foot, you can’t help but be awed by the fact that someone actually did that in real life, that a brave man lived his life to the fullest even if it was only through the actions of a single foot.
Final rating: 9/10
–James A. Janisse