Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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My Left Foot

Film #253


The story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy. He learned to paint and write with his only controllable limb - his left foot.

Year 1, Day 252

BEFORE: It’s my last full day at home as spring break draws to a close and with it brings yet another leftover film, My Left Foot. Originally scheduled for Oscar month (in case you couldn’t tell by now, a lot of films got pushed back that month), I’m finally getting around to Daniel Day-Lewis’ first of three Academy Award wins. Having already seen his other two winning performances (Lincoln and There Will Be Blood) to say I’m excited for My Left Foot would be an understatement. Let’s see how this goes.

AFTER: Sometimes the best part of a film can be the acting. Sometimes the acting can be the only good thing about the film and everything else is subpar. With My Left Foot, the acting and the rest of the film are one and the same - it’s all about Christy Brown’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) life. And that is what makes the film so good. Not only do you get a wonderful performance by Day-Lewis, but this performance is the film. It’s not just one separate element that adds up with things like story and dialogue; the acting is the film.

First let me try to explain why Day-Lewis’ performance was so spectacular and very deserving of the Academy Award for Best Actor. Christy Brown was born with cerebral palsy which affects motor functions and, at least for him, his ability to speak. To get an idea of what this looks like, here’s a clip from the film. What amazes me the most is Day-Lewis’ ability to become whatever character he plays. It’s not just a charade, something that can easily be faked and look like he has talent. No. Watching My Left Foot I was utterly convinced that Day-Lewis himself had cerebral palsy. He doesn’t just nail the larger actions (i.e. moving around the room, rolling over, etc.) but what really makes the performance is the smaller actions. Things like the tiny facial ticks, drool coming out of his mouth, and ability to speak. You can hear him struggle to form his words, especially at the beginning. And later on when he’s able to speak coherently, there is still that hint of struggle but you also hear an Irish accent come through. It is just astounding how difficult it must have been for Day-Lewis to be able to do this all day, every day for the entirety of the shoot.

Now what do I mean about the acting being the film? Well, let’s look at what the film is about. Yes we know it focuses on Christy Brown’s life but what happens? I was complaining about MASH yesterday about their being no conflict. Well there isn’t really any conflict in My Left Foot but there is still a purpose to the film: the transformation of Christy Brown. He starts off as a young child, not able to communicate which resulted in most of his family (except his mother) thinking he was slow. Turns out he isn’t and once able to communicate, slowly but surely begins to paint and write beautifully. But this path isn’t an easy one, and as seen in the clip above, he is loved and supported by family and friends but also is picked on and beaten up at the same time. Life is tough on Christy and it leads to several moments of depression. The reason this makes My Left Foot so good is because the story and the character are two halves of the whole. The film is about Christy, his life, and his journey and because Daniel Day-Lewis can depict that with such accuracy and realism, the result is a winning combination.

My Left Foot is an absolute marvel. If you haven’t seen any of Daniel Day-Lewis’ work, you’re really missing out. Of his three Academy Award-winning performances, I think this is his best. Not only is he able to depict a man with cerebral palsy (side note: Hugh O’Conor plays the young Christy Brown in this film and also does an impressive job) but his performance really gives you the viewer a reason to watch and a reason to invest your time in this film.

RATING: 5 out of 5