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My Left Foot (1989)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown is a 1989 drama film directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It tells the true story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who could control only his left foot. Christy Brown grew up in a poor, working class family, and became a writer and artist. The film also stars Ray McAnally, Brenda Fricker, Fiona Shaw, Julie Hale, Alison Whelan, Kirsten Sheridan, Declan Croghan, Eanna MacLiam, Marie Conmee, and Cyril Cusack. It was adapted by Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan from the book of the same name by Christy Brown. Many of the scenes were filmed through a mirror, as Daniel Day-Lewis could only manipulate his right foot to perform the actions seen in the film. It won the Academy Award for Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Brenda Fricker). It was also nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It also won the NYFCC Best Picture Award for 1989. My Left Foot's awards are bolded and nominations are also listed.
Christy Brown (who died eight years before this film was made) was born with C.P. and pretty much assumed by his family to be retarded beyond hope until -- as a pre-teen -- he proved he could scrawl a word on the floor with his toes. Encouraged by his mother (Brenda Fricker), Christy learns to read and write, and even paint. Meanwhile, of course, adversity waits at every turn.
Much of the pricelessness of My Left Foot comes from Daniel Day-Lewis's spot-on portrayal of Brown, the first acting job that made critics and awards voters really take notice of him. He won the Oscar for the job, in fact. Brown wasn't a saint. He was more the stereotypical Irish drunk, a surly fellow made even more difficult by his severe handicaps. And yet, he's a genius. What can you do?
The first film from director Jim Sheridan -- the unofficial chronicler of Ireland for the last 15 years -My Left Foot would hint at a talent that we'd soon get to see in all it's glory. Now available on a cleaned-up DVD, the disc includes about 15 minutes of extras, most notably footage of the real Christy Brown, which is instructive in seeing how accurate Day-Lewis's portrayal really was.