STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Video
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 103 Minutes
An Inspirational Journey: The Making of My Left Foot
My Left Foot reviews
Still gallery
The Real Christy Brown featurette

Making a biopic of someone who triumphed over adversity is tricky business. If you make it too focused on inspiring people you’ll be accused of making a manipulative film that will be seen as worthless Oscar-bait. If you protect the subject too much you’ll be accused of white washing their past and hiding their flaws.

It makes you wonder why more filmmakers just don’t stop trying to force these life stories into movie cliché molds and just present the subject as they are – totally human in their flaws, hopes, triumphs and actions. Let the audience decide whether or not they want to be inspired or feel sympathetic. My Left Foot presents its subject in this exact manner and it makes for a refreshing film about an inspiring person instead of one that leaves you feeling used by the director.

Entranced by the puppet show, none of the children except for Leonard noticed that the credits had returned. Oh yes, they were back – and they were hungry.

The Flick

Christy Brown is the child of a working class Irish family. He was born with cerebral palsy and the only limb he can fully control is his left leg. His father refuses to send him to an institution both out of financial necessity and out of pride. Christy cannot speak early on in his life so everyone around him just assumes that he is mentally disabled as well. Eventually Christy manages to use his left foot to write words, letting his family know that he is very much an intelligent person trapped inside a body that is unwilling to let him express it.

Christy learns to develop the use of his left foot in writing and painting. He also begins to take speech therapy with a visiting doctor. Christy begins to become a much more social creature and develops a penchant for whiskey. He has a black sense of humor and can trash talk with the best of them. He’s not afraid to start a bar fight or kick over the table in a restaurant. He’s an artistic genius and is as angry and temperamental as they come.

After learning to use a typewriter with his foot, Christy wrote his life story. The appropriately titled My Left Foot is both the source material for the film and a story telling device. The film switches from a benefit event later in Christy’s life to his past. The flashbacks to his earlier years are meant to be a nurse reading the first edition of his biography. It’s not exactly the most inspired choice for showing flashbacks. It’s about as original as the techniques used on television shows when they want to put together an episode entirely out of old clips. Additionally, it seems to be used solely to give the film an uplifting ending. Perhaps Jim Sheridan just wanted an excuse to shoot a scene on a hill.

Some Irish youths check out a particularly engrossing issue of Modern Maturity.

My Left Foot’s strength comes in its unflinchingly honest portrayal of Christy Brown. His actions are inspiring and represent a real triumph of human will, but that doesn’t mean that he’s perfect. He’s simply human and oftentimes acts in a totally unsympathetic manner and does things that are hard to excuse. He’s manipulative, pushy and angry when he can’t get what he wants. He’s also a loving son, a great sibling and a determined individual. Seeing Christy Brown as a complete human being and not just as a one-dimensional tool designed to inspire people makes the entire film more meaningful.

The film’s other real strength is the number of talented actors and actresses it has. Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker both won Academy Awards for their roles in the film. Actors winning awards for portraying disabled people has become somewhat of a punch line over the years, but Day-Lewis’ portrayal is honest and seems quite genuine. Ficker’s performance is even better as the matriarch of the Brown family who holds her family together through the rough periods and always had faith in Christy.

Charging a child actor with accurately portraying someone with cerebral palsy is a daunting task to entrust them with. Hugh O’Conor plays the young Christy Brown in the earlier parts of the film. The scenes with the younger Christy are some of the film’s most powerful ones, including the moment when Christy first makes it clear that he is trying to communicate with others. O’Conor does a great job at portraying an expressive individual trying desperately to escape the prison that is his body. Child actors are a detriment to some films, but in this one the child actors are some of the strongest of the bunch.

The film tries hard to stay away from manipulative pap but seemingly can’t help itself. Sheridan just has to stick in a few scenes that serve no purpose other than to say “Look, he may only be able to move his left leg but he can do this just like you.” while inspiring music plays in the background. It’s hard not to indulge Sheridan though as those types of scenes are so irresistible when making a film of this type. My Left Foot is an understanding biopic that avoids most of the trappings of the genre and offers an interesting glimpse inside the life of a brilliant individual.

7.0 out of 10

This is the 21st century folks. I thought we had moved beyond such blatant prejudice against witches.

The Look

The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and boasts of a digitally remastered picture. They may want to try remastering it a few more times because it needs improvement. There’s a lot of grain all throughout the picture. It’s almost always present and some scenes are positively full of it. It’s better than watching the film on VHS, but it’s one of the most unimpressive “digitally remastered” pictures I’ve seen on DVD. The film has been out of print on DVD for some time though, so most people will be grateful that they can even get it.

5.0 out of 10

In the clutches of the Paper Hat Cult.

The Noise

My Left Foot features a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio track. This is a dialogue heavy film so the surround sound feature isn’t used heavily. The dialogue is easy to hear, which is a definite plus since it’s deliberately hard to understand what Christy is saying. Of course, you can always cheat and turn on the subtitles. The film transfer might not be up to “Collector’s Series” standards, but the audio certainly is.

8.0 out of 10

I made 800 pounds in just one week with Don Lapre’s super system!

The Goodies

The extras included in this release are quite odd. In all likelihood the people buying this film like it already, so it begs the question why most of the extras exist only to tell you how good the film is. The featurette on the making of the film talks briefly about how all the principal creative forces came together, how great they were and how great the film was. The disc also contains several movie reviews of the film that go into greater depth about how good it is.

The still gallery is tacked on because every DVD does it these days. There aren’t any interesting pictures or even behind the scenes ones. The only feature with real substance is a very short look at the real Christy Brown. It’s interesting to see pictures of the real thing, but the feature never goes into any real depth about his life or any possible differences between his experiences and the way they were portrayed in the film. The special features on this disc look more like they were created to fill in some space on the back of the box rather than to explore the film.

3.0 out of 10

These Japanese horror films aren’t even trying anymore.

The Artwork

My Left Foot has used a lot of different poster and video box designs throughout its existence, but this one has to be one of the most uninspired. The art contains a tiny picture of Daniel Day-Lewis that isn’t even from the movie but from a publicity still. He’s clean shaven and has long hair – an appearance he never sports in the film. Behind him is a scene from the end of the film that pretty much spoils it for anyone with a good eye. This tiny picture is enclosed by a huge black frame and yet another frame outside that one. The box is designed to sell this film based on the Miramax name and the award nominations with no thought given to the film itself.

2.0 out of 10

Overall: 7.0 out of 10