My Left Foot
Shane Connaughton, Jim Sheridan (Book: Christy Brown)
Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan, Kirsten Sheridan, Declan Croghan, Eanna MacLiam, Marie Conmee, Cyril Cusack, Phelim Drew, Ruth McCabe, Fiona Shaw, Ray McAnally
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The sometimes disjointed story of Christy Brown, an acclaimed painter whose cerebral palsy left him paralyzed from the neck down with only his left foot capable of independent movement. The film follows him as he learns to use that appendage to express himself through writing, painting and later typing. Daniel Day-Lewis received a deserved Oscar for his strong central performance, having delved so deeply into the role that it would accurately preface nearly every role he would ever take on. I might even suggest that Hugh O’Connor, who played the young Christy, gave a superior performance simply due to his age and since it’s unlikely Day-Lewis played his performance off of O’Connor, O’Connor deserves more praise for simply creating a comparable character.
Supporting him in the film is Brenda Fricker as his mother, a strong influence in his life and one of the few engaging characters in the film. It’s that lack of empathy for the individuals in the film that causes most of the film’s problems. You rarely attach emotionally to anyone but the mother whose hard work, physical and emotional turmoil are perfectly tuned. But even though you recognize Christy’s plight, there’s something off-putting, narcissistic and futile about the character. Perhaps that opinion is colored by the present-time scenes where the disagreeable drunkard is kindly doted on by all those around him. He makes himself out to be an irritating sot and that unlikable quality permeates most of the film. The few scenes of joy Day-Lewis gives Christy help temper the negative aspects of the character, but you never love him or sympathize with him except when he goes up against his semi-abusive drunk of a father.
The first two-thirds of the film are engaging enough even with the limited interruptions set in the film’s present tense, but as the last third speeds through time to reach the film’s conclusion and finally bridge present and past, we get too many fleeting scenes of Christy as an adult making his own decisions. It’s almost like the most important aspects of his life come prior to him becoming a drunk like his father. The parallel between the two male figures never getting a satisfying treatment.
August 2, 2010