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My Left Foot direced by Jim Sheridan
 
 
Overview
My Left Foot was produced by Noel Pearson and directed by Jim Sheridan in 1989. It was adapted for the screen by Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan from the autobiography My Left Foot written by Christy Brown and published in 1954.

The film was hailed as a critical success and was nominated for five Oscars and won two: Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. It also won the highly regarded Best Film award from the New York Critics Circle. The film was shot on location in Dublin and Wicklow and in Ardmore Studios.

The film is about Christy's personal struggle for acceptance of who he is and recognition of his talents. This theme is further enlarged upon in the film's treatment of the wider society at the time that Christy was growing up. The viewer is exposed to a Dublin of rampant squalor and poor working conditions, large families confined to miserable living standards in poor houses.

My Left Foot depicts the attitudes prevalent at the time concerning the disabled. Christy's neighbours see Christy as a 'moron' and as a cripple. His father takes much the same view. It is evident that Mr. Brown is as much an emotional cripple as Christy is a physical one; in a way Mr. Brown is more locked in than Christy is - Christy at least can express himself.A large portion of the learning process that the film describes is taken up with the slow change in attitudes of those surrounding Christy.

Christy's own search for love and a relationship with women is another dominating factor in the film. His mother provides him with an emotional bulwark that he can take refuge in but he also yearns for a greater depth of relationship with other women.

Both Rachel and Eileen refuse his advances. His slide into a deep depression and alcoholism is well portrayed as is his ability to look on himself as a person and not as a clinical problem, a lesson that he can teach both to others and to the medical profession.

Altogether it is a very uplifting film in its portrayal of the contest between the ignorance and close-mindedness of people as compared to the power of self-realisation. Christy's success would not have been possible without his mother; indeed his success is her success also. She was the one who mediated between Christy and the world when no one else could or would, until he was able to exercise his own faculties. Even then she guarded against any possible clash between Christy and his father. Her humanity stamps its authority on the film.
Genre
Biography.
General Vision or Viewpoint
Throughout this film we are made constantly aware of the different struggles, which Christy Browne had to overcome because of his battle with cerebral palsy. The film shows us how he fights and conquers in these battles. The atmosphere of the film is tough and rough. We witness the enormous power of a large family. Each member of the family in their own particular way contributes to helping Christy overcome the various obstacles along the way.

The mother's support and strength is undisputed. It becomes evident that she is a central figure in his growth and development. Without this consistent and powerful support, Christy would not have managed to exercise his talents in the way, which he did, and would probably not have managed to attain the undoubted prestige, which he acquired when he got older.
Cultural Context
Working-class Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century provides a grim background to this film. Families are large and poverty is widespread. However, the lack of material riches is contrasted with the wealth of humanity and hospitality portrayed by family members and neighbours.

Two other strong features of traditional Ireland are those of the religious faith, and of the pub as an important focal point of the community. Religious imagery dominates much of the background, and the lively dialogue is peppered with religious phrases - not all of them used in a reverential context! The importance of the pub is underlined when Christy writes his first words on the slate and is rewarded with his first pint of stout. Drink forms the basis of his initiation into manhood.
Plot Summary
My Left Foot serves the twin function of narrating the life of Christy up to the point at which the film opens, and narrating the events of the day in 1959 that he receives his award and meets his wife to be.

The film begins at this latter date when Christy first meets Mary who will be his nurse for the day. Mary reads from Christy's autobiography, which begins in 1932 with his birth with cerebral palsy into a bricklayer's family. Encouraged by his mother, to the amazement of all, he begins to use his left foot to communicate with, as it is the only part of his body over which he has voluntary control.

Through his childhood and teenage years we see his life progress as he has scrapes with his brothers, falls in love and is rejected, learns to paint and to express himself more fully and has a savage battle with depression and drink. The film ends with his personal triumph in the recognition of his extraordinary talents and in his meeting with Mary with whom he watches dawn break over Dublin Bay.
Themes and Issues

Courage
Courage in the face of adversity is the main theme of the film. Not only Christy's courage, but that of his mother, his family, friends and neighbours. Although the obstacles were stacked against him from the outset - cerebral palsy, the lack of medical facilities and financial support, and his father's abusive character, Christy and his mother refused to give up hope, and in the end it is their courage which wins through.

 

Family
The power of a united family is an important theme in the film. Without the unerring faith and belief of Mrs Brown, it is unlikely Christy would have succeeded as he did.

 

Love
Love is a central theme in My Left Foot. It is not just the conventional love of a man for a woman and vice versa, but also the love of a mother for her son, the love of family members for each other, and the love of neighbours and friends. Without experiencing true, unconditional love, it is doubtful Christy would have had the heart to go on and realise his potential as a writer.

 

Class
Although Ireland is not viewed as a class-ridden society the way England is, My Left Foot offers the reader a unique insight into the differences between the landed gentry and the working class at the turn of the twentieth century. Christy and his family live in abject poverty in a tiny house in the slums of Dublin, while Lord Castlewellan's privileged Anglo-Irish lifestyle is characterized by expensive cars, servants and material excess.