My Left Foot (1989)

left-foot

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Ray McAnally, Hugh O’Conor, Fiona Shaw, Ruth McCabe (in her first film)

Director: Jim Sheridan

Summary: A man with cerebral palsy become a celebrated painter and writer

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Day-Lewis)*, Supporting Actress (Fricker)*, Adapted Screenplay

This is an incredibly physically demanding performance from Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, but if it was just that he played a role under extreme conditions, then I wouldn’t have given him an Oscar; however, he does a lot more than that with his remarkable physical control throughout, along with the vitality and character he breathes into the role. What I noticed after a while is how incredibly consistent and readable he is in the role-you can what he’s thinking and feeling at all times without over or under-doing his condition, and he’s very consistent in how much physical and speech therapy he has received at that point in the film. The other big performance is from Fricker, who does well playing steely, warm and well, motherly all at the same time as the emotional pillar of Brown’s life in a “supporting” role (she’s clearly the main actress in the movie, similar to Viola Davis in Fences). These two performances (along with McAnally, who I’m surprised wasn’t nominated for his performance as Brown’s father) make the movie well worth watching.

The film’s big thread is how Brown wants a real, romantic relationship with a woman in spite of his physical condition and the arc plays out well..except in one big detail. They portrayed Mary Carr, Brown’s eventual wife, very positively in the film…which has not aged well, as accounts released after the film came out describe her as physically abusive, habitually unfaithful to Brown and the reason he died an early death. Not the film’s fault, but problematic for someone watching the film in present day (much like watching a hypothetical biopic of O.J. Simpson from the 1980s would be surreal now). Regardless, this is still a very good movie with some standout performances.

Rating: B

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