Film Review: My Left Foot

There are some films that you buy/watch purely on reputation without really looking into what the film is about or the style in which it is shot. You sit down and offer part of your life to it based upon nothing more than an actor’s name. My Left Foot is one of those films.

Until now it has happily passed me by, not boring to even glance my way should our paths even remotely come close to crossing. And our respective lives would have stayed that way had it not been for amazingly enough Abraham Lincoln. Purely off the back of his Oscar winning performance in Lincoln, I have gone through a bit of a “Daniel Day-Lewis” phase, searching out and watching a lot of his back catalogue: There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, The Boxer, The Crucible, In the Name of the Father, The Last of the Mohicans. The list is rather long and now, to that, we can add My Left Foot.

I have watched the trailer, but not really bothered to take it in, as far as I was concerned it starred Daniel Day-Lewis and looked alright, so into the collection it went. As a result, I went in not really sure exactly what I was expecting. If you’d asked my beforehand what it was about I’d had probably just gone “ah, um, a bloke in Ireland with a good left foot”. It shames me slight to admit that.

What I ended up getting though was a film that I found slightly strange yet at the same time weirdly entertaining. For anyone like me, My Left Foot is the true story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy and was only able to control his left foot. It plays out his life from birth learning firstly to cope and manage his condition, before, as he gets older showing us the inner strength and drive to push him on to prove he is equal to anybody and capable of so much more. Painting, speaking, thinking.

However, My Left Foot suffers because, it feels disjointed. It’s set in the 1940 and 50s and yet there is a real sense of being later. There are times when it feels more like the 1960s and coupled to a cinematic production style that seems to try and soften the film, no doubt as a mechanism to keep the film and it’s difficult topic from becoming too heavy to bear and watch, but ends up creating an atmosphere that feels more like a Sunday night drama you’d expect to see on terrestrial TV than a feature film.

This then contrasts badly against the acting performances of its main protagonists. There are no question that if you want to know just how good Daniel Day-Lewis is as an actor, and why he has the reputation he does, My Left Foot, is a perfect example and his Leading Actor Oscar is rightly deserved. Be in no doubt, his performance is stunning. But it’s not enjoyable. As Christy gets older, and becomes more independent, he becomes less likeable as a person. He becomes vicious and manipulative and I found myself withdrawing faster and faster from his world. Day-Lewis also brings such military style precision to the role that you almost start to wonder whether this is a feature film or documentary. And having spent such a long time questioning the cinematic position of the film as I explained earlier – it all starts to clash together.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to enjoy about this film. When this film lets you into Christy’s early life – his preteen life – growing up, learning to accept the life that he has been given, you are treated to a stunning film.

Seeing the love of his mother, his brothers and the world around him, you are shown a world that is so warm, so uplifting and inspiring that honestly, I’d prefer 90 minutes of that and forget Daniel Day-Lewis. His early life struck a deeper note with me than any other, and the performance of Hugh O’Conor as the young Christy Brown in my view is stronger than Day-Lewis’. And it’s such a shame that his career seems to have never kicked on from the potential he showed in this.

My Left Foot is a film that suffers from never quite knowing what it wants to achieve, or where it’s real story lies. In the young or old Christy. And that’s such a shame because there is such an amazing story there waiting to be told. Due to its age you’re not going to find it for sale on a super market shelf – chances are it’ll be 50p in your local charity shop – but trust me, given the choice of 50p and my left foot or £15 for some of the recent “blockbusters” I know which one I’d pick.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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