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MY LEFT FOOT (1989)
An inspiring story of how a poor Irish Dublin boy, Christy Brown, crippled by Cerebral Palsy, overcomes his handicap through the use of his good left foot to become an accomplished artist, whose main encouragement and support was his mother.
MY LEFT FOOT was nominated for the Best Picture award. Nominated for 5 Academy awards, won for Best Supporting Actress (Fricker) and Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis).
The screenplay was written by Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan, and was based on Christy Brown's book.
Directed by: Jim Sheridan.
Promotional Line: "A True Story about life, laughter, and the occasional miracle."
This film, told in flashbacks, tells the story of Christy Brown, a brilliant painter, poet and author, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, 1932, with a body crippled by Cerebral Palsy. Fortunately, he was blessed with a left foot, free of the disorder, a brilliant, creative mind, caring parents and a soon to be large, loving Irish family as time passes. This film was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
The story starts in the present, showing the now grown-up Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), who is all dressed up in a suit. He sitting in his wheel chair, which is in a sitting room of a large mansion, waiting to appear in a benefit for handicapped children going on in the main room next door. His attendant is a young woman, Mary Carr (Ruth McCabe). She notices his book, "My Left Foot," sitting in the tray of his wheel chair. With his permission, she starts to read it, and the film goes into flashbacks of various periods of his life begin.
In the 30's and 40's, ignorance and lack of medical know-how ruled the day when it came to Cerebral Palsy patients. It was thought that they were mentally incompetent as well. Christy's parents were advised to put him in an institution. Gruff, feisty Mr. Brown let it be known: "No son of mine will be sent to an institution." The point made was that even if Christy may be destined to be an idiot, he is our idiot and we love him anyway, as he is a member of our family, and blood sticks together.
Young Christy (Hugh O'Conner) spent the first nine years of his life not being able to tell them he had a mind, personality and a gift trapped in a crippled body. His mother (Brenda Fricker) instinctively knows that there is much more to Christy, so she gives him as much attention as she can, though she doesn't coddle him.
At one point, when she told him that she was going to the hospital for a little while to have a baby, and he was upset, she told him that he can't hold on to her forever. Soon after telling him this, she falls down the stairs after lugging him up to the bedroom. A favorite scene follows. Young 9 year old Christy manages to get off the bed, and get himself down the stairs, crawl around his unconscious mother and bang on the door with his good foot to get the neighbor's attention. This incident gave him confidence in himself, which leads to the next pivotal incident.
Another favorite sequence of scenes takes place, after the new baby comes home from the hospital. During homework time at the family table one evening, Christy becomes determined to show his Dad that he wasn't an idiot as everyone thought. Using a lot of energy, Christy picks up the chalk with his toes on his left foot, and painstakingly prints on the chalk board, "MOTHER", totally amazing his family, especially his Dad, who shouts, "He's a Brown!" The Dad scoops up Christy and heads for the pub, proclaiming proudly to one and all, his pride in his 9 year old son.
His flashbacks also record the effect his Mother (Brenda Fricker) had on his life attitudes, various family ups and downs, and fun times he had with his younger brothers who took him every where with them in a wooden wheel barrow, as they grew up together. As he experienced good and bad incidents in his family's life, his own failings with the opposite sex because of his palsy, his drawings reflected how he felt about them all. Drawing and painting was the only means of expression that others could understand.
By the time he was 19, the family had managed to save enough money to buy Christy a wheel chair, which in turn brings a new person into Christy's life, Doctor Eileen Cole (Fiona Shaw) who starts to help him develop his speech so after some set-backs and a struggle, Christy is finally able to be understood verbally by others, which brings his real personality out, both his weaknesses and his strengths. He is able to express his feelings verbally - clearly for the first time, which does get him into trouble a time or two. It seems that Christy has a huge crush on Dr. Cole which causes some problems in their friendship.
Another favorite sequence of scenes is when Dr. Cole arranges with a friend who owns a gallery to have Christy's works displayed in an art show, all to great success, causing great pride in his family, especially his father, who is utterly amazed. However, things become a bit uncomfortable afterwards at a luncheon date when Christy gets mad at a friend of Dr. Cole's because of comments made to him.
In between the flashbacks which come about when Mary is reading his book, Christy Brown flirts with Mary, as they slowly become friends, though she has conflicting feelings about him, and won't give him an answer about seeing him after the benefit. Will he win her over by his conviction, humor and wily charm by the end of the benefit?
This inspirational screenplay was written by Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan, based on the auto-biographical book by Christy Brown himself, who died in 1981. This well-done script catches the spirit of Christy's inspiring life story, which has given many hope that their dreams can come true, despite physical handicaps and challenges. One can see why it earned an Academy award nomination.
The multi-talented Jim Sheridan also did the superb direction, which earned him an Academy award nomination. Jim Sheridan has a Dublin-based production company that has made several successful movies, such as "In the Name of the Father."
The marvelous cast is made up of mostly unknown, but very talented Irish actors, who do a terrific job telling this Irish inspirational story through both their ensemble work and individual efforts.
Daniel Day Lewis was brilliant as the complicated person, Christy Brown, trapped inside a body that fortunately had an escape hatch - a normal left foot. He was absolutely convincing every minute he was on the screen, and really deserved his Best Actor Oscar.
Brenda Fricker did an outstanding job in the role of Christy's Mother, a kind, patient wise person who kept her large family together and united while doing her best to give Christy what he needed to grow into his potential. After winning the Best Supporting Actress Award, her film career was jump started.
Ray McAnnally, who died in 1989, also did a wonderful job playing Christy's father, Mr. Brown, who was a blue collar, politically incorrect, hard working brick layer with a quick temper, a big heart, and a blunt way of saying things, calling a spade, a spade.
Fiona Shaw is convincing as Dr. Eileen Cole, a person who opens Christy up more by helping him through therapy to learn to speak more clearly, and who helped him make connections in the art business, which gave him a way to make money from his drawings.
Young actor, Hugh O'Conner also does a terrific job playing young Christy Brown. His performances in the staircase and chalkboard scenes described above were just fabulous. His talent has kept him working steadily in films, stage productions and British TV.
"My Left Foot" is rated R, and is definitely for the over 17 crowd. Many salty and four letter words can be heard from this crowd, and there are a few fights, and strong, verbal confrontations.