Friday, April 06, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—My Left Foot (1989) ***½

R, 103 min.
Director: Jim Sheridan
Writers: Shane Connaughton, Jim Sheridan, Christy Brown (book)
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Ray McAnally, Fiona Shaw, Ruth McCabe, Alison Whelan, Cyril Cusack

I have a special needs child. She has developmental delays. She’ll catch up. That’s what we say, and we believe it. Not that we don’t think she’ll need some help, but those developmental delays can be tricky. It would be easy to think she just doesn’t get it, that she doesn’t understand. I think often she acts like she doesn’t understand when she does, but it’s very hard to tell what’s going on in that head of hers.

Christy Brown didn’t pretend not to understand. His severely crippling cerebral palsy had many believing he was a lost cause. His mother never did, but imagine how difficult it must’ve been to convince people that there was just as much going on inside your noggin’ with only your left foot with which to do it. The thing about that type of developmental handicap is that it’s so hard for anyone else to imagine that so much is going on inside. It’s like living life in a see-through coffin.

“My Left Foot” is the Oscar-winning movie by Jim Sheridan that celebrates the life of Christy Brown in the way that any such life should be celebrated. Not as a sad look at the harsh realities of life, but as a life lived to the fullest. It’s not a redefinition of ‘living’, but a redefinition of ‘fullest’. No, scratch that. There’s no redefinition necessary. It means the same to Brown as it does to anybody, whether the rest of us can see it or not.

This is the movie that brought Daniel Day Lewis to prominence as an actor, with his accurate portrait of Brown. I’m sure many called it a ‘brave performance”. Hardly. Christy must’ve had to push those around him to see him as an equal despite his limitations. Lewis has continued to bring us incredible characters and magnificent performances throughout his career, but none of those could’ve been as satisfying as this one. What a thing it must’ve been to honor such a man as Christy Brown with this performance.

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