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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

My Left Foot


Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ray McAnally, Brenda Fricker, Fiona Shaw and Hugh O'Conor
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 24 April 2012

When Christy Brown was born in Dublin in the early nineteen thirties his family quickly discovered that he suffered from severe cerebral palsy. Resisting the doctor’s advice to place the seriously disabled child in an institution, the Brown family took him home to live as a normal member of the family. Unable to speak, as a child, and his limbs spastically frozen, Christy discovered that he had good control of his left foot, this control allowed him access to the world eventually leading him to grow into a successful author and artist...

My Left Foot (1989 - 1 hr, 43 min) is a fictionalised biography directed by Jim Sheridan, who co-wrote the script with Shane Connaughton. The film won an impressive number of awards including a BAFTA and Oscar for Daniel Day-Lewis, an Oscar for Brenda Fricker and another BAFTA for Ray McAnally. In all the film won eleven awards and was nominated for a further twelve.

People enjoy stories of individuals who overcome disabilities, flourishing into their full potential and it was a great act of faith and love, on behalf of Christy’s family, to integrate him into his family at a time when it would have been easy to have sent him off to an institution. So I suppose that it is little wonder that some of the aspects of his real life have been glossed over in the film, especially the ending. I don’t wish to spoil the film so if you’re interested it’s interesting to read the actual books he wrote and the stories about his marriage.

As a film it’s a masterful piece of storytelling by Sheridan. Christy is played by two actors. Hugh O'Conor plays the young Christy with as much conviction and acting skill as Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Christy from the age of seventeen. The transition between the two actors portrayal is so seamless its inexplicable to me that Day-Lewis was lauded so much and O'Conor's contribution seems to have been forgotten.

Apart from the main leads, the film has a very strong cast. Brenda Fricker (Mrs. Brown) is the main strength of the family, never giving up on her son and keeping her large family safe and fed. She is portrayed as so selfless that when Christy starts to earn good money from his writing she is embarrassed to take any, even though she knows that he means it as an act of love and not charity.

Mr Brown (Ray McAnally) is, in his mind anyway, the alpha male of the family, staunchly defensive of his wife and children, even to the point of engaging in brawls to defend their honour.

The film has aged well. As a period piece it was never going to date badly and watching it again an odd thing struck me. The young Christy is surrounded by his able bodied family, alive in his mind but unable to communicate, pushed around in his chariot, by his brothers, he is present without being able to participate. This makes him a highly sympathetic character, especially as we the audience know that there is the soul of an artist hiding within. The first time he is able to grab a piece of chalk and draw a crude letter A on the floor is one of the high points of the film.

When we move forward to Christy, having been released from his silence, therapy had helped his speech so that he was intelligible to the world around him and this beautiful soul turns out to be a pretty foul mouthed alcoholic, which personally lost some of my initial sympathy. Certainly Christy displays the black humour which the Irish are renowned for, so maybe this was what the director was aiming for. Nobody said geniuses had to be easy to be around.

There is not much in the way of extras; you get text bios of five of the main actors as well as a picture gallery where about half of the pictures are not screen captures. It’s odd that such a lauded film should have so little in the way of extras, not even the Making of My Left Foot, which appeared on the DVD. Audio is 2.0 LPCM with a good picture.

As a film about overcoming disability it’s a little masterpiece, so maybe it would have been a disservice to Christy Brown if he had been portrayed as a saint, it would have moved the film even further from biography to fiction.


Charles Packer

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