Friday, October 16, 2009

My Left Foot (1989)


Upon the release of his book My Left Foot, Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis) reflects on the struggles of being born with cerebral palsy, and having only the use of his left foot. Concentrating on his childhood, teenage years, and early twenties, and his mother (Brenda Fricker) who never gave up on him despite having 12 other children.

After recently reading an article, by whom I can't honestly remember (sorry if you're reading this!) on why Tom Cruise should have undeniably won the best acting Oscar this year I figured I'd finally go ahead and watch Daniel Day-Lewis' performance in My Left Foot. It's rather hard comparing one man crippled by war, and one man crippled by a natural defect, and as such I can't really say whose performance I like more. Cruise's is by far more emotional, but I believe Lewis' is more difficult, and as such you could almost flip a coin in deciding between the two. Alas we all know how it turned out, and I don't really have a gripe either way.

As for the film itself, I have quite a bit of mixed feelings towards it. Lewis and Fricker are an acting force to be reckoned with, and the story of Christy Brown is about as captivating, and mixed feeling inspiring, as they come. He's not the most likable character, deeply flawed and a drunk, but in a sense you find yourself cheering for him as the world can only see him with sympathy. In a sense, My Left Foot aims to have you not sympathize with him, if for no other reason than the fact that everyone around him does nothing but sympathize him. His personal relationships are always caught in this dilemma, and despite his best efforts people always keep him at arms length. It's not hard to see why he becomes the person he does, and in that department My Left Foot exceeds brilliantly.

Unfortunately for the film there's always this underlying feeling of the need for more. More depth, more insight, a greater understanding of the man whom I fear we spend more time observing than getting into the mind of. Lewis is tasked with playing mediator between Sheridan and the audience, and unfortunately for the film goer Lewis' character is not the right one to serve as the medium. Spending too little time on the mother, Fricker must use her screen time to serve as the mediator between Christy and the audience. This creates a bit too great of a gap between us, the main character, and the film. Yet, Sheridan knows all to well how to use the camera, and bring the most out of a series of situation based scenes (despite what his recent effort, Get Rich or Die Tryin' would lead you to believe). This talent for scene by scene directing helps highlight Lewis and Fricker who are the true backbone, and saving grace, of the film.

Despite being a fine film about overcoming the greatest of obstacles, My Left Foot feels all to needy of great performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker to hold the film together... fortunately for us, they give us such performances.

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