Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My Left Foot

This week a special edition of My Left Foot was released on DVD, an impressive movie that should be on almost everyone’s list. This is Jim Sheridan’s adaptation of the autobiography of Christy Brown, a critically acclaimed Irish painter and writer who suffered severely from cerebral palsy.

The movie earned Daniel Day-Lewis a Best Actor award in 1989 for his portrayal of Brown, and a Best Supporting Actress for Brenda Fricker as his mother. Day-Lewis' performance alone makes this a film worth seeing. Notorious for his complete absorption of his character during filming, he conveys Brown's life with his disease so convincingly that we can feel the frustration and pain of his condition.

But it is Sheridan's writing and directing that distinguish this movie from so many in its genre. He refuses to overplay the sympathy card with Brown's condition, except when it is Brown himself filtering his childhood through his book. Rather, Sheridan gradually reveals a man of extraordinary strengths but often very ordinary weaknesses. Brown's insight, talent and perseverance are inspiring. He learns to paint with his only functional limb, his left foot, and slowly improves his speech by repeatedly reciting Hamlet's soliloquy. But it is his sense of alienation—leading to depression and drink— that remind us that private tragedy often lies behind public victories.

Jim Sheridan (In America) is a sensitive, compassionate chronicler of the Irish people. His movies are steeped in the honor and dignity found among the working-class poor. Christy Brown was born in 1932, one of 13 surviving children raised by a tough bricklayer father and a devoted and encouraging mother (Fricker's Oscar was also well-deserved). The Brown's make up in love and togetherness what they apparently lack in everything else, and don't appear to suffer from sleeping four to a bed or going days with weak porridge and no coal. Sheridan's insight into the lives of these early 20th century Dubliners is every bit as revealing as James Joyce reliving his youth.


Post a Comment

<< Home