My Left Foot (1989) (R)

Christy Brown was born with cerebral palsy. It's a condition that targets the motor systems. It creates spastic paralysis and is extraordinarily hard to live with. The doctors told Chrity's family that he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life, but he wasn't. He gained control over his left foot which he used to spell out words on the floor of his house using chalk. "My Left Foot" is the true story of Christy Brown's rise to becoming a famous writer and painter.
As soon as this movie started, I thought of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" which I recently saw, because of the similarities in the leading role. Both were men who had to overcome enormous obstacles and ended up both writing books. But "My Left Foot" is much less fanciful than "Diving Bell". It's grounded in the traditional roles of good mother-bad father.
The Browns are a typical Irish family, underpaid and over worked. Christy is accepted by his family (most of his family anyway), they treat him so nicely and it's somewhat hard to believe that they never get stressed or have panic attacks. Christy's brothers and sisters are the nicest people imaginable, his mother's a saint and his father's a rude drunk. Irish stereotypes 101.
His father doesn't seem to care about effort he just cares about results. It doesn't matter that Christy tries to communicate with the rest of the world but can't, everyone just thinks he's a moron. When his mom falls down the stairs, while she's pregnant, Christy excruciatingly drags himself down the flight and bangs on the door with his good foot until someone hears him and comes for help. They think that he was the cause of her fall and call him "idiot" and "moron" to his face. It's not the typical name-calling, they just think that's how he is.
Hugh O'Conor plays the young Christy and is absolutely entrancing in this role. If anything, he betters his older counterpart Daniel Day-Lewis, a feat not many can say they achieved.
When a therapist Eileen (a very young Fiona Shaw) helps him overcome some obstacles and teaches him how to speak with clear diction, he falls in love.
This is why the movie works, Christy is an outsider, he knows it. He thinks that no one will ever romantically love him so when someone shows him the least amount of interest he falls for them. It's sad but it feels true.
But not all of it works for me. If we're going on performances alone, yes the movie is great. But there's something that this movie lacks and I can't put my finger on it. The best way I can put it is that sometimes the movie falls into its own irony and starts to drown itself.
It's a great role for Daniel Day-Lewis, one that won him his first Oscar, but it's not a great movie altogether.

Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

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