My Left Foot
Set in Dublin, My Left Foot is the real life story of Christy Brown: a painter turned writer who was born with cerebral palsy. The condition means he has trouble with his speech and if he wants to write/paint he must use his left foot.
Based on the book Christy wrote about the condition, this had the appropriate feeling of such an account: its honesty never giving way to sentimentality. Christy is never treated as a saint, yet his tenacity, warmth and intelligence shine through the screen through Daniel Day Lewis’ flawless performance.
This is a film as much about perception as anything else. The opening scene shows Christy’s mother fall down the stairs, and Christy thinks quickly, having to throw himself down the stairs to attract help from his neighbours. Later, we overhear some locals discuss how Christy’s mother had obviously fallen taking him up the stairs, calling him a ‘moron’: ‘Ah, sure he has the mind of a three year old.’
This film reminded me a lot of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: which is likewise based on an autobiographical account of what’s it’s like to live with a physical disability while still being able to think and reason as well as any able-bodied individual. Both films challenge the viewer’s perceptions of what people can and cannot do, and show the triumph of the human spirit.
If I had any criticism of My Left Foot it’s that it does feel a little like a TV Movie at times. With a very simple narrative, and few especially cinematic features to its photography. Perhaps this was intentional: befitting of the humble settings Christy grew up in. However, I did feel the story lacked the grandness or artistry of the aforementioned French film.
Nevertheless, My Left Foot is a movie it’s easy to recommend, since it is a genuinely inspiring and eye-opening film. I’ve often thought of making a list of ‘Films you must see before reaching eighteen in order to become a fully functioning member of society in later life’. Schindler’s List, The Lion King and The Wizard of Oz would certainly be on said list. My Left Foot would be a worthy addition.
The Coen brothers follow up to the darkly comic Blood Simple stars Nicholas Cage as H.I., a convict who falls in love with Ed (short for Edwina), a police officer who takes mug shots of convicts. After yo-yoing in and out of jail, he finally proposes to Ed, promising to go straight if she accepts. Which she does. Cue opening credits.
Once they get married, they realise the next logical step: children, isn’t on the cards since Ed can’t have them. So they decide to follow the next logical step: steal one from parents of quintets who declare they have so many they ‘don’t know what to do with them’.
This film could very easily be dismissed as ‘just a comedy’. It has purposefully cartoonish characters, big set pieces and never takes itself very seriously. However, much like all of the Coen brothers’ movies, it still has something to say. I’m just not too sure what it is.
There was something deeply painful about Edwina’s desire to have kids, and being driven to carry out something so bizarre and take something else. Nicholas Cage also brilliantly conveys a husband who is doing his best to provide for a family but can’t help the desire to reoffend that has haunted him all his life.
These elements are there, but perhaps not fully realised. Overall, I think this is a film that shows the potential of the Coen brothers, where something like The Big Lebowski or O Brother Where Art Thou sees that potential realised. I couldn’t help thinking things like ‘that bit was done better in…’ or ‘that reminds me of that great scene in ….’.
I feel an understanding of the Coen brothers’ work helps us to fill in the gaps of a film where they still seem to be finding their feet. However, on its own terms, it’s a fun and entertaining movie. Ultimately though, it isn’t much more than fun and entertaining.