Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant in ‘My Left Foot’

Daniel Day-Lewis in 'My Left Foot'
Daniel Day-Lewis in ‘My Left Foot’

In 1989 the United States was introduced to Irish cinema with My Left Foot, starring Daniel Day Lewis and directed by Jim Sheridan (no relation, although I met him once in a bar in the Village here in NewYork City). Lewis walked away with the Oscar for Best Actor that year, surprising many. His co-star, Brenda Fricker, also took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year.

I remember being surprised by the film when I first saw it in theaters that year. My mother had dragged me to it, because being 14 and stubborn, I had no interest in a film that didn’t have aliens, explosions, humor or nudity. But like many times in my life, I left the film feeling moved. My Left Foot is inspiring and touching, moving and emotional, and serves as a prime example that anything is possible.

My Left Foot tells the story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who became a celebrated artist and writer despite his condition. At a young age he discovered that he was able to properly control his left foot, and soon learned how to write and draw with it.

One aspect of this film that I found fascinating was how his friends and family treated him so well, often ignoring his physical limitations. This is highlighted during a game of football, where Brown serves as goalie. But no matter how much he is included, he is also often excluded from other things, such as with girls.

What makes My Left Foot so powerful is the dedicated performance by Lewis. He so immersed himself in the role, often remaining in his chair even during lunch, that is doesn’t even seem as if he is acting. Such a flawless performance is rare, and Lewis showed that he was a powerful talent.

But what helps his performance is the way it blends seamlessly with Hugh O’Connor, who played the younger Christy Brown. The young actor expresses Brown’s struggle wonderfully, and the manner in which his work compliments Lewis’ only serves to strengthen both actors.

This collector’s edition DVD features digitally remastered picture and sound which I found to be terrific, with vivid colors and sharp contrast. The special features could have been a little meatier, but are interesting all the same. There’s a brief discussion of the real Christy Brown, as well as a behind the scenes featurette. But neither Lewis or Sheridan are featured in either, which I thought was kind of odd. A good commentary, perhaps by the two of them, would have really made this DVD truly “special”.

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