Review No. 449
Marked by a strong performance and a tortured screenplay.
Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Screenplay by: Jim Sheridan and Shane Connaughton
Based on: “My Left Foot” by Christy Brown
Christy Brown: Daniel Day-Lewis
Paddy Brown: Ray McAnally
Bridget Brown: Brenda Fricker
Dr. Eileen Cole: Fiona Shaw
Christy Brown (young): Hugh O’Conor
Also Starring: Alison Whelan, Cyril Cusack, Declan Croghan, Eanna MacLiam, Kirsten Sheridan, Marie Conremme, Phelim Drew, Ruth McCabe
Distributed by Miramax Films on November 10, 1989. Produced in English by Ireland. Runs 103 mins. Rated R by the MPAA–mature themes, violence, profanity.
My Left Foot was watched on March 9, 2013.
“And you typed all of it with your left foot?” –Mary Carr (Ruth McCabe)
A severely disabled man endures years of belittlement, before suddenly finding a grand inner talent for which people can appreciate him. For those who weren’t aware, it’s a common formula that has been used for countless character dramas. But it’s only in the hands of a good director and screenwriter that we get something highly memorable. David Lynch, Christopher De Vore, and Eric Bergren set this in stone with 1980′s The Elephant Man, a rather artistic, unpredictable, and yet human take on the life of Joseph Merrick, a horribly disfigured man. And in 1994, Robert Zemeckis and Eric Roth gave Forrest Gump as an example, going into countless exaggerated territories, all while staying poignant and lovable.
I could keep going, but I’m not sure for how much longer. I expected that upon watching My Left Foot, I would feel the same way: intrigued to a familiar setup as if it were the first time. Unfortunately, the film never managed to take any more than my forced interest. As I am writing this, I have just opened a new tab on my web browser–Wikipedia’s article on Christy Brown. I don’t really want to learn more, but I feel that I need to. That is to say that the movie didn’t really acquaint me with its own main character, and because of this lack of depth, I feel I need more information about him in order to write a review.
Here’s what I’ve gathered from the Wikipedia summary. Brown was born on the fifth of June, 1932, and he died just over forty-nine years later. He was born into a working class family living in Dublin, Ireland. Due to cerebral palsy, he grew up using his left foot to complete the tasks of a dominant hand. Later on, he became a famed painter, at which point he earned the respect of those surrounding him almost immediately. He fell in love some time after and chronicled his life in a work titled My Left Foot.
This is a pretty short outline, mind you, but there are bits of even that that don’t make a solid enough appearance in the film adaptation. We learn more about Christy’s mother–his lifelong mentor–than we do about himself. We learn that he has cerebral palsy and can paint well. Little more.
What saves My Left Foot is Daniel Day-Lewis, the film’s own left foot. The drama drags on like a snail until its timer has reached a little over an hour and forty minutes. Yet Day-Lewis is able to ease the hardship of enduring such a length. The man is a true method actor, and I wholeheartedly understand his Academy Award victory for Best Actor. What’s decidedly unfortunate, however, is that the character he portrays is written for the screen as if he were an empty vacuum. For a film of such subject matter, My Left Foot could have been much more thought-provoking.