My Left Foot (1989)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Medical Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 10, 1989 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Ireland   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Mike Cummings

Film and TV productions about the severely ill frequently dwell only on a character's Jekyll, not his Hyde. The idea is to give viewers a feel-good character to root for or cry about, someone who overcomes impossible odds to live a triumphant life or who dies gently without the burning and raging advised by Dylan Thomas. This 1989 production presents the whole of its central character, Christy Brown, a victim of cerebral palsy who has one functioning appendage, his left foot. Not only does the film show viewers a courageous, persevering Christy who contorts himself into a pretzel just to write with his toes, but it also shows them an angry, wrathful Christy who resorts to screaming, kicking, and the foulest of four-letter words to vent his spleen. Daniel Day-Lewis won a Best Actor Academy Award for his moving portrayal of the adult Brown, but young Hugh O'Conor was also impressive in his portrayal of Brown as one of 13 children of a Dublin bricklayer. Unforgettable is a scene in which young Christy huddles in the shadows of his shoddy home, a wretched lump of flesh that his family thinks cannot function physically or mentally. And then, without warning, he shocks everyone by using a piece of chalk and the toes of his left foot to scrawl a word on the floor. Brenda Fricker won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as Christy's mom, a woman of fierce resolve who helps him liberate his brilliant mind from its prison of darkness. As Christy's father, Ray McAnally ably portrays a weak man who musters enough courage to keep his son at home rather than institutionalize him. The real-life Christy Brown went on to become a famous author and painter -- and an alcoholic -- and this outstanding film gives you all of him, for better or worse.