My Left Foot (1989)
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I remember, many years ago, we had a party in our house - the friends came over, we were sitting around the table, eating, drinking the wine, talking, laughing - having a good time. The TV was on - there was a movie which we did not pay much attention to. Then, suddenly, all of us stopped talking and laughing. The glasses did not clink, the forks did not move, the food was getting cold on the plates. We could not take our eyes off the screen where the young crippled man whose entire body was against him and who only had a control over his left foot, picked up a piece of chalk with his foot and for what seemed the eternity tried to write just one word on the floor. When he finished writing that one word, we all knew that we had witnessed not one but three triumphs - the triumph of a human will and spirit, the triumph of the cinema which was able to capture the moment like this on the film, and the triumph of an actor who did not act but who became his character.
Jim Sheridan's "My Left Foot" is an riveting, unsentimental bio-drama about Christy Brown, the man who was born with cerebral palsy in a Dublin slum; who became an artist and a writer and who found a love of his life.
I like every one of Day Lewis's performances (I have mixed feelings about his performance in GONY) but I believe that his greatest role was Christy Brown in "My Left Foot"
Lewis and Brenda Fricker as his mother both won Oscars and Ray McAnally as his father also deserved one. The movie is well directed by Jim Sheridan with whom Lewis again worked with in the excellent In The Name Of The Father as well as The Boxer.
As Christy Brown, Daniel Day-Lewis makes his character unsympathetic as he doesn't want you to feel sorry for him. He achieved the great success of being an accomplished writer and artist. Director Jim Sheridan directs the film like a series of home movies that millions want to see.
Brenda Fricker won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress as Brown's mother and she is the real moral centre of the film and this film proves that Hollywood is capable of choosing small, lesser known films for Oscar consideration and 'My Left Foot' is a film that is uplifting without being sentimental.
Daniel Day-Lewis and director Jim Sheridan did very well on this collaboration, and also on a later collaboration: "In the Name of the Father" (but "The Boxer" was unnecessary). "My Left Foot" can make you feel many ways: sad, hopeful, or something else. But in any case, Daniel Day-Lewis gave the performance of a lifetime here. A great movie in every sense.
I could spend this review talking about the film's excellent portrayal of working class Ireland, and the working class Irish family specifically. I could talk about how the film does a good job of showing how the attitudes towards Christy Brown changed as Ireland's own political landscape changed. I could probably also talk about the role of women in Christy's life, from his mother and sisters, to the loves in his life. All of these things are worthy of mention.
However, when talking about 'My Left Foot', there is one thing that stands out above everything else; that being Daniel Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis had already proved his acting chops in the excellent 'My Beautiful Laundrette, but it was this movie that put him on the map globally. And rightly so: he is absolutely fantastic as Christy Brown.
Acting is difficult at the best of times, when you're playing a fully-functioning human being. What Day-Lewis achieves, therefore, is even more admirable. It is an extremely effective and realistic portrayal of someone suffering from cerebral palsy, and the actor goes gung-ho with both the physicality expressiveness required for the role. It is a joy to watch.
An honourable mention also needs to go to Hugh O'Conor, who plays the younger Brown. I can only assume that it is even harder for a child to go through the rigours that the role requires, but O'Conor is brilliant. What makes the character difficult to play is that, in trying to make it look real physically, the emotion required can be lost. Both actors avoid that problem with what seems like relative ease: at no point does the efficacy or emotion of the moments falter.
All the other stuff mentioned above are worthy of talking about, if I intended to write a longer review. But for this small thing, I think it is more than enough to say that 'My Left Foot' deserves to be seen just for this landmark Daniel Day-Lewis performance. Whatever you may think of the film as a whole, or whether you care about the story of Christy Brown or not, it is secondary to the simple appreciation for an actor at the top of his game.
Jim Sheridan's film tells the biography of a man named Christy Brown. Born with cerebral palsy, the story goes from his tough childhood to his even tougher adulthood where he becomes an expert writer and painter despite the fact he only has mobility with his left foot.
Now on to Daniel Day-Lewis. I think people would agree with me on where I stand with him as an actor. He puts every ounce of effort into his roles and he acts as if he is actually the character he is portraying. After his roles in "In the Name of the Father", "Lincoln", "Gangs of New York", and "There Will Be Blood," I can honestly say he is the best actor ever. Also, I must single out Brenda Fricker in this role as Christy's mother because she does such an amazing job.
Overall, My Left Foot is a wonderful film that tells a story of a condition that many people must suffer through. I am glad there is a film that brings proper awareness to the condition and hence, much emotion is provoked. On technical terms, this film not the best since I felt it could use just a little better editing. But story-wise, yes it is perfect. I rate this film 9/10.
Based on the autobiography of the same name, My Left Foot tells the story of Christy Brown; an Irishman who was born with cerebral palsy but despite his handicap went on to become an artist & writer, all with the help of the only thing he could fully control: his left foot. The film covers his upbringing in a poor family, his daily struggles, discovery of new passions & also his stint with love.
Wonderfully directed by Jim Sheridan, the film is heartwarming & heartbreaking at the same time, and is an inspiring insight into the life of Christy Brown that makes the viewers go through various emotions, but pity isn't one of them. The technical aspects are finely executed & have nothing special going on but it's in the performances where the film manages to make the most lasting impression.
There are three key performances that are worth noting here. First is Daniel Day-Lewis who delves into his character like never before & plays him from inside-out. Next is Brenda Fricker who strongly chips in as Christy's mother. And last we have Hugh O'Connor who is as good as Day-Lewis for his portrayal of young Christy Brown sets up a perfect stage for Day-Lewis to take over.
On an overall scale, My Left Foot is a touching tale about the indomitable will of the human spirit to triumph against all odds, and succeeds mainly because of the unforgettable performances from its highly committed cast. But even if the film is entirely dependent on its acting strength, it still makes up for a rich cinematic experience that comes as a must for Daniel Day-Lewis' admirers as well as critics.
When you watch the film, you will marvel at the acting. While Daniel Day-Lewis received the Oscar for his great and very realistic portrayal of Brown, I am not sure why the child who played Brown as a child didn't get some sort of recognition--as he was great also. And, I especially appreciated it because too often child actors are, to put it bluntly, terrible. Yet, Hugh O'Conor was every bit as wonderful as Day-Lewis.
On the other hand, once again, the history teacher in me strikes again. As I watched this biopic about the Irish author/painter Christy Brown, I couldn't help but feel a bit annoyed that the ending painted a completely false picture of the man's final years. In this Hollywood-like ending, Brown apparently has a very happy final years. However, this was NOT at all true---and his final years were quite pathetic--filled with alcoholism and an an early death. I really don't think the film needed the happy ending and knocked a point off for this.
Still, overall an exceptional film--one well worth your time.
The film, however, is a very difficult one to review--or even watch. Fortunately, I had the caption feature on to catch every spoken word which would have been impossible if I saw the film in a theater. While I respect it as a brave piece of work dealing with difficult subject matter, I can't say it's the sort of film I'd want to view more than once.
Nevertheless, my attention was held by the story-telling device, a flashback framed by the present, in which we see Christy being honored for his achievements before we see the flashback to his youth and his struggles to communicate with those around him, who certainly gave him loving care.
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS certainly is remarkable as the troubled man who falls in love with a therapist (FIONA SHAW), much to his mother's fear that when the love is not reciprocated his heart will be broken. There's a painfully long scene in a restaurant where he confesses his love to her before others and then goes into a frenzied rage after drinking too much.
BRENDA FRICKER does a brilliant job as the mother taking care of him, his father and a brood of siblings while struggling to keep a roof over their heads until Day-Lewis begins to have success with his work. She complements Day-Lewis' performance as the warm-hearted mother and shares many poignant moments with him.
Richly detailed story of a family that stayed together under the most unusual of circumstances with attention to period detail in every frame of the film. Both Fricker and Day-Lewis won Oscars, but HUGH O'CONOR and RAY McANALLY are also excellent. O'Conor is Christy as a boy and McAnally is the father who spends too much time at the local pub but loves the boy.
Summing up: Elmer Bernstein's music is an added plus factor. Well worthwhile, but definitely not a film for everyone.
It's a tough way to act for Daniel Day-Lewis. It's not just the physicality but he has to make sense despite his speech pattern. He has to be understandable without speaking understandable English. It's his anger and his unlikeability that brings out his humanity. He's not playing a saint or a caricature. It's a real person. It's an all-around performance.
I'm not sure why but I have to write ten whole lines for this review to count and be posted but I'm not sure what else to say so I guess I will just keep typing? This is really pointless, if we just have something short to say why should we have to write a bunch of extra mumbo jumbo too?
Anyway if you like great performances then check this movie out, he is awesome!
This movie is absolutely wonderful. I'd put off watching it because I expected it be maudlin and manipulative, but it's not; it's earthy and defiant and hopeful, just like Christy. Daniel Day-Lewis earned the Best Actor Oscar for his stunning performance which manages to convey his horrible frustration and longings without being overly-sentimental. He's really outstanding. Brenda Fricker won Best Supporting Actress; she's immediately likable and admirable. The entire cast is perfect and the story is truly inspiring.
The story is simple -- Christy was born with cerebral palsy, a brain disorder which didn't allow normal motor controls of arms, legs, mouth, etc so that he had much difficulty moving and speaking. The only unaffected part of him was his left leg. He could kick pretty well (as demonstrated twice, in playing street ball and in a pub brawl) and eventually learned to write, paint, and type with his left foot. Thus the name of the movie. He became a successful painter and author, in spite of his severe physical disadvantages.
The movie shows us both the young Christy and how he grew up as a fairly normal member of his very large but poor Dublin family, as well as the mature Christy. It shows his determination, and it shows his temper tantrums, usually borne of frustration at not being able to be "normal". His main loss as an adult seemed to be the inability to find someone who could love him, in a committed sense.
As his biography tells us, in 1972 at the age of 40 he married a nurse, Mary. The movie also contains a depiction of how they met and went on to begin their romance. Christy Brown died at the relatively young age of 49, in 1981, but his life is a great example of what can be accomplished if you don't let obstacles shackle you.
A superb movie, and a superb portrayal by Day-Lewis.
I have seen this film a lot of times and each time I see it,I find it equally brilliant each time.I wonder how did this amazing film not win an Oscer for best picture,It is a shambles by the academy awards. Jim Shirdan is to me one of the greatest directors in the world.the screenplay,the music and anything else is excellent in this film. As the film goes on,you would nearly feel your in the brown household as everything occurs.Ray MacAnally and Brenda Fricker are amazing as Cristies parents and Fiona Shaw is equally brilliant as d.r Eileen Cole,who helps Christy on his battle of defiance.
The Irish film industry had noting much to its name before my left foot.My left foot was the start of a wonderful period in Irish film. films so powerful and brilliant such as the field,the crying game,in the name of the father and Michael Collins followed my left foot.these Irish films were regarded so highly around the world and were nominated for multiple Oscers and won some,A wonderful period for Irish film.My left foot is a powerful outstanding film.
Daniel day-lewis plays the crippled Christy Brown so well and so brilliantly and the same goes for Hugh o Conner who plays young Christy.To me those two performances are two of the best ever film performances,especially Daniel day-Lewis's performance which I would regard as high as Antony Hopkins in the silence of the lambs. Daniel day-lewis has proved in his career that he is an great actor.
this is an excellent masterpiece in film,see it!
This phenomenon aroused some adverse comment at the time, with suggestions being made that these awards were given more for political correctness than for the quality of the acting. When Jodie Foster failed to win "Best Actress" for "Nell" in 1994 some people saw this as evidence of a backlash against this sort of portrayal. My view, however, is that the majority of these awards were well deserved. I thought the 1992 award should have gone to either Clint Eastwood or Robert Downey rather than Pacino, but apart from that the only one with which I disagreed would have been Hanks', and that was because I preferred Nigel Hawthorne's performance in "The Madness of King George". In that film, of course, Hawthorne played a character who was mentally ill.
"My Left Foot" was based upon the autobiography of the Irish writer and painter Christy Brown. Brown was born in 1931, one of the thirteen children of a working-class Dublin family. He was born with cerebral palsy and was at first wrongly thought to be mentally handicapped as well. He was for a long time incapable of deliberate movement or speech, but eventually discovered that he could control the movements of one part of his body, his left foot (hence the title). He learned to write and draw by holding a piece of chalk between his toes, and went on to become a painter and a published novelist and poet.
Life in working-class Dublin in the thirties and forties could be hard, and the city Jim Sheridan (himself a Dubliner) shows us here is in many ways a grim, grey, cheerless place, very different from our normal idea of the "Emerald Isle". (Sheridan and Day-Lewis were later to collaborate on another film with an Irish theme, "In the Name of the Father"). Against this, however, must be set the cheerfulness and spirit of its people, especially the Brown family. Much of Christy's success was due to the support he received from his parents, who refused to allow him to be institutionalised and always believed in the intelligence hidden beneath a crippled exterior, and from his siblings. We see how his brothers used to wheel him round in a specially-made cart and how they helped their bricklayer father to build Christy a room of his own in their back yard.
The film could easily have slid into sentimentality and ended up as just another heart-warming "triumph over adversity" movie. That it does not is due to a number of factors, principally the magnificent acting. In the course of his career, Day-Lewis has given a number of fine performances, but this, together with the recent "There Will Be Blood", is his best. He is never less than 100% convincing as Christie; his tortured, jerky movements and strained attempts at speech persuade us that we really are watching a disabled person, even though, intellectually, we are well aware that Day-Lewis is able-bodied. The other performances which stand out are from Fiona Shaw as his mentor Dr Eileen Cole, from Hugh O'Conor as the young Christy and from Brenda Fricker as Christy's mother (which won her the "Best Supporting Actress" award).
The other reason why the film escapes sentimentality is that it does not try to sentimentalise its main character. Christy Brown had a difficult life, but he could also be difficult to live with, and the film gives us a "warts and all" portrait. He was a heavy drinker, given to foul language and prone to outbursts of rage. He could also be selfish and manipulative of those around him, and the film shows us all these aspects of his character. Of course, it also shows us the positive aspects- his courage, his determination and his wicked sense of humour. Day-Lewis's acting is not just physically convincing, in that it persuades us to believe in his character's disability, but also emotionally and intellectually convincing, in that it brings out all these different facets of Christy's character. His Oscar was won in the teeth of some very strong opposition from the likes of Robin Williams and Kenneth Branagh, but it was well deserved. 8/10
My Left Foot is based on the biopic of Christy Brown. Brown grew up in an overly crowded family in the slums of Dublin, but it was his extreme cerebral palsy that was the family's biggest burden. The only regular functioning part of his entire body is his left foot. His family comes to realize that he is actually smart, as he is able to write and paint with his left foot. He becomes a success as a painter, poet, and writer, ultimately writing the book in which this movie is based on.
What I like about this (and what separates this from other similar films) is that it is less of a rise story and more of a coming-of-age biopic. The Browns try to make ends meet and accommodate Christy's disability to everything. Mr. and Mrs. Brown are very admirable. Brenda Fricker does a dynamite performance as Mrs. Brown--a role which earned her a well-deserved Oscar. She is very loving and supportive of her son, and can see beyond his disability. When Christy first writes, it is touching and inspirational. As Christy becomes more of a success and the Browns get out of poverty, it is such a joy.
1989 was an excellent year for movies. Believe it or not, Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar win was not much of a stretch. Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July and Kenneth Branagh in Henry V were just as deserving as Day-Lewis. But it was Day-Lewis that was the victor, in what is still his best performance. As I said earlier, Brenda Fricker also won, but she was a deadlock--nobody in the Best Supporting Actress category was close. These two are the acting highlights, but the entire movie as a whole is so perfect. We have the real Christy Brown to thank for that.
However... the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis was in this film, REALLY HELPS... because I think he's absolutely fabulous! I don't think I've ever seen a crappy movie with him in it! The fact that Jim Sheridan was responsible for this (and the fact that I thought "In The Name of The Father" & "The Boxer" were absolutely superb films despite how aggravating the scenarios were in the films... but thats just what made them fantastic... the fact that they were so realistic, and gave you some incite of what the hell goes on in Ireland!) Take it from Sheridan... someone who is Irish... don't let some Hollywood piece of rubbish tell you a bunch of fallacies. The fact that Sheridan uses non-traditional actors/actresses in his films also adds to the realism. And the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis isn't overrated, and the man can actually ACT (and by his stunning performance in this film) I was really blown away by him. I fully understand why he had gotten the Academy award that year, and the same goes for the woman who played his mother.
The story of Christy Brown was told in a very tasteful, informative, compassionate, & non-exploitive way. It is a triumphant story of his accomplishments... and I also being an artist... and having epilepsy (and the fact my medication gives me tremors) I have an extremely hard time doing my artwork... but Christy... made me feel like I was being lazy! :) His artwork was beautiful... It made me happy! It was so aesthetically pleasing... and so personal. I would love to read his writings to get a better incite on him.
Another individual I became interested in after watching the film based on his accomplishments is the pianist David Helgoft. The movie "Shine" was based on him, and Geoffrey Rush was EXCELLENT in that as well. Both films were as good as one another... and I would definitely suggest that to anyone who liked "My Left Foot."
The acting is amazing, which is not hard to believe since it is Daniel Day Lewis, who is an amazing actor. Brenda Fricker is the surprise wonder in it, though. She captures your heart as the mother of a physically disabled boy, who is not able to walk, or speak until he is in his late teens.
I can't say enough good things about the movie, but I will stop here. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys movies that are based on actual events, or just enjoy good dramas in general.
Brown was born into a lower middle-class Catholic family where his mother was constantly pregnant (22 children in total, 13 of whom survived). His father considered Christy mentally retarded as well as physically handicapped, but he would not permit his son to go into a home. The children in the family would bid goodbye to him each day as they went off to school, and then his mother would feed him and talk to him.
In the movie, Fricker conveys the sense of a woman who, despite being surrounded by a huge family, needs someone to talk to. Christy doesn't talk back. Eventually a cart is found for him to ride in, and the neighborhood kids, all of whom have known him since he was a baby, include him in all of their activities. The only part of his body that works really well is his left foot, and when the kids find out how well he kicks, they put him into soccer games for just that purpose. One of the nicest parts of the film is the relaxed way the in which the other children treat him.
There are many powerful scenes, but none as powerful as Christy writing "Mother" on the floor holding a piece of chalk between his toes. "He's a true Brown," his father declares, hoisting him on his shoulders and carrying him to the pub. Walking into the pub, he announces, "My son's a genius." Things change when Christy grows older because he has a young boy's desires and emotions. He develops crushes, is rejected and goes more into himself, turning to painting. Eventually he goes into therapy in a nearby clinic and works with a therapist, Eileen (Fiona Shaw) at home. He falls in love with her. When he finds out she's engaged, he nearly goes crazy. But he survives to live, to paint, to write (three books in total) and to love again.
Because it's a film, by necessity certain things had to be left out and characters combined. Brown wasn't actually diagnosed with cerebral palsy for some time, which was left out of the movie. The therapist Eileen is actually a combination of three important therapeutic figures in Christy's life, and though we know that his mother believed he had a good mind, in truth, she worked very hard with Christy when he was a child teaching him the alphabet, etc. Also, before Mary, Christy had a 12-year relationship with the woman to whom he dedicated "My Left Foot." And the typical Hollywood ending, 9 years before his death where neglect by his wife may have been a factor, doesn't finish the story.
Despite all of that, Christy Brown's biopic is incredibly powerful, all the more so because of two performances: Hugh O'Conor as young Christy and Daniel Day-Lewis as the adult Christy. O'Conor's facial expression and the way he drags his warped body is gut-wrenching. One is exhausted for him and heartbroken at the same time.
And what can be said about Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the greatest actors in the world - he brings Christy totally to life, a fully fleshed out, intelligent human being capable of swearing, becoming angry, bitter, drunk, pushy, lecherous, funny and loving. A well-deserved Oscar won in the same year that Tom Cruise was nominated for "Born on the Fourth of July." I remember someone writing a letter to the editor somewhere that Cruise was so sensational, what was wrong with the Academy? Uh, nothing for a change. Nothing at all.
Brenda Fricker is amazing as Christy's mother, who never stops believing in him and what he can do and who holds her family and husband together during the hard times. The wonderful thing about Fricker's performance is that the support, love and work ethic seem to come naturally to the mother. The character would never consider herself a heroine or as someone doing something out of the ordinary. Fricker shows us a religious but not fanatic woman who believes her duties on earth are to be a good wife and mother. And no matter what, even when her husband is out of work, throws their daughter out of the house for being pregnant, whatever, she manages. She saves money for Christy's wheelchair, she receives photos of her daughter and the baby, she starts building a room for Christy in the back of the house. All part of a day's work. A performance worthy of the Oscar she received.
Brown's life was more complicated than this inspiring film, but this is an amazing achievement by all involved and a must-see.