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MY LEFT FOOT

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Ray McAnally, Brenda Fricker, Fiona Shaw, Hugh O'Conor
Director:  Jim Sheridan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  See Review
Length:  103 Minutes
Release Date:  August 16, 2005

"Let's drink to Dublin."

"To Dublin?  Why?"

"Because Christy Brown was born there!"

Film ****

My Left Foot is an extraordinary film and an unforgettable true story.  It's the kind of movie you watch over and over again because it reminds you that miracles are indeed possible, and can occur in the most unlikely of places.  Or people.

Christy Brown (Day-Lewis) was born to a poor Irish family in 1932.  Afflicted with cerebral palsy, his twisted body was like a prison.  The only part of him he could effectively control was his left foot. 

Many mistakenly believed him to be retarded because he couldn't speak clearly or look after himself, but cerebral palsy affects the motor skills, not the inner workings of the mind.  And when a young Christy picks up a piece of chalk with his toes and scratches out his first word, he amazes everyone around him, including his dutiful mother (Fricker) and his long suffering father (McAnally).

Christy eventually earned recognition as a great painter, crafting heartfelt portraits of those he loved with his left foot.  With the help of a therapist (Shaw), he learns to speak more clearly, and the intelligent, tough, lovely man trapped within his broken body begins to emerge more clearly.  He even learns to type with his big toe, and one letter at a time, he put his own life story to paper, which helped him become not only a legend in Ireland, but one the world over.

Daniel Day-Lewis took home the Oscar for his incredible performance as Christy Brown; many called it an upset over the heavily favored Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July.  But for those who saw My Left Foot, it wasn't a surprise...merely a well deserved affirmation for an extraordinary piece of acting.  Day-Lewis became famed for his method acting technique, often refusing to break from the character of Christy between takes and learning to get through life using only his left foot as Christy had done.

Brenda Fricker, as Christy's mom, also took home an Oscar for her wonderful work.  And I always felt it was a shame that the Academy did away with a Best Juvenile Performance award a long time ago; otherwise, Hugh O'Conor as the young Christy would have been a shoo-in.

This is a truly inspirational picture.  Like any life story, it's filled with moments that are heartbreaking and moments of almost unimaginable triumph.  The fact that Christy lived his life fully and beyond all expectations makes it a measuring stick by which we can measure our own lives.  He never let his handicap dictate the kind of person he was going to be, nor did he let it stand in the way of success.  That's a lesson well worth learning for all of us, no matter what our station in life might be.

Video ***

I'm happy to see Miramax release this modern classic...a former studio, which shall remain unnamed, had put out a version of My Left Foot that was full frame only.  Now, we can see Jim Sheridan's masterpiece as it was intended, in full anamorphic widescreen glory.  This is a lovely, colorful transfer, with rich tones and good detail throughout.  A bit of grain is noticeable throughout, but it's not terribly distracting.  All in all, a solid effort.

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is a fairly lively offering, with the subwoofer giving extra kick to Elmer Bernstein's score.  Spoken words are clean and clear and well balanced throughout, and dynamic range is fair.  I noticed no noise or interference to mar the listening experience.

Features **

The best feature is a short look at the real Christy Brown, using old photos and film footage while those who knew him share their memories.  There is also a short making-of featurette and a stills gallery.  You can also peruse four critical reviews of the film.  I wish Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Sheridan had participated in the extras, but they were sadly nowhere to be found.

Summary:

My Left Foot remains for me one of the greatest movies of the 80s, and one that showcases an all time great performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.  Moving, involving, and ultimately uplifting, the story of Christy Brown will always be remembered, and his life will always be looked to as something any of us could aspire to.

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