Many years before he dazzled us with brilliant performances in films like “Gangs of New York,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Lincoln,” Daniel Day-Lewis hit it really big with a much smaller film called “My Left Foot,” giving a performance that would earn him the first of three Best Actor Oscars. The film tells the true story of Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy that leaves him with only one usable limb, his left foot. As a child, he requires a lot of attention, but his mother (Brenda Fricker) is always there to help him. After struggling to communicate by writing with his one moveable appendage, he eventually begins to take up the activity of painting, a skill that earns him recognition when his doctor, Eileen Cole (Fiona Shaw), convinces a friend of hers to put his artwork on display. Through his work with Eileen, Christy learns to talk more clearly, whereas before he had only been able to make sounds that only his mother seemed to understand. However, he also finds himself falling in love with his doctor, but can’t build up the courage to tell her how he really feels, leading to an explosive confrontation when he learns of her engagement to another man.
“My Left Foot” is a film that I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time, it being the one Oscar-winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis that I had yet to see. From the way everyone raved about the film, it seemed like I was going to be in for an incredible experience, which only made it all the more disappointing that the film is actually a very middling biopic that doesn’t delve very deep into the extraordinary life of its subject. Before watching the film, I knew that Christy Brown only had the use of his left foot and he liked to paint and write. After watching the film, the known facts remained the same. It’s not a bad film by any means, but nor is it a good one. It settles for a rather superficial look at Christy’s life, giving us very little in-depth knowledge of the man and what it was like for him to go through these events. How did he learn to paint? Did he only take inspiration from his family and friends? How did being able to express himself this way make him feel? These are things that screenwriters Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan just don’t want to delve into, instead taking a quick look at his relationship with his doctor, as well as a very brief look at how he met the woman who would eventually become his wife.
What stops the film from collapsing into a rather bland biopic are the performances from Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker. Day-Lewis does a fine job as Christy, though I don’t think it’s one that I would have given an Oscar to, especially not with the incredible competition that year from Morgan Freeman (“Driving Miss Daisy”), Robin Williams (“Dead Poets Society”), and Kenneth Branagh (“Henry V”). Fricker, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, gives a terrific and heartfelt performance as Christy’s mother, earning every bit of emotion that she elicits from the audience. It’s just a little sad that the screenplay didn’t give them something deeper and more meaningful to work with.
Considered something of a classic, “My Left Foot” remains at the very least an interesting look at where the great Daniel Day-Lewis achieved his breakout, leading to roles that would show us just how much extraordinary talent the man has. His incredible ability to melt away into various characters (Bill Cutting, Daniel Plainview, Abraham Lincoln, etc.) continues to astound cinema goers each and every time he shows up on screen. With “My Left Foot,” we see that that ability started very early on. To this day, he remains the only male actor to have won three Oscars for lead performances, and it’s not hard to see why. Nowadays he simply remains unparalleled.
“My Left Foot” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p transfer that makes the film look almost new again. It’s been over 25 years since the film’s release, but the picture presented here is amazingly sharp and clear. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little on the soft side, but as always, with a little volume adjustment, this doesn’t become much of an issue. Once fixed, you are treated to an extraordinary audio track that allows you to hear every little sound in perfect clarity. Overall, the film has been beautifully restored, ensuring an optimal experience.
The Real Christy Brown: A brief, four-minute look at Christy Brown, featuring interviews with some who had the pleasure of knowing him. There’s not a whole lot to be learned here, but it’s interesting to watch for their recollections of the actual man.
An Inspirational Story: The Making of My Left Foot: An interesting, ten-minute featurette that takes you through how the project came to be, featuring interviews with some of the filmmakers and others.
My Left Foot Reviews
Despite fine performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker, “My Left Foot” is a middling biopic that takes a rather superficial look at the extraordinary life of Christy Brown, never daring to go deeper into what made him tick. Its biggest setback is the screenplay by director Jim Sheridan and co-writer Shane Connaughton, which really needed another draft or two to help get at the heart of their subject. With a more in-depth examination, it would more likely have resulted in a memorable and engrossing film, rather than a forgettable one that merely settles for a brief overview.