"I don't need a fookin' psychology lesson, just a light" retorts the desperate-for-a-fag Christy Brown when the nurse addresses him as if he were a poorly trained pet. It's a typical piss-off for the wheelchair bound wit, who is patronised and subjected to daily humiliations despite his considerable abilities.
Now, the idea of a film about a disabled man, albeit one with a surprising intellectual gift, may sound like a worthy but depressing depressive, despite the fact that Dustin Hoffman did rather well out of Rain Man. My Left Foot has parallels with that film and is at least its equal in every department, a surprisingly entertaining, earthy, funny, superbly acted and uplifting celebration of the life of Irishman Christy Brown, who was born imprisoned in a body horribly crippled by cerebral palsy and went on to win worldwide recognition as an artist and writer. The work of the four principal actors here is worth parting with money to see. Daniel Day Lewis is quite superb as Christy Brown, a role that is as afar as you can get from his affected aesthete of A Room With A View or the spivvy gay in My Beautiful Launderette.
Having mastered the physical difficulties of a rigid, twisted body and impaired speech, he gives a riveting, whole portrayal of a man whose cleverness brings him little relief from the rage, lust and despair of the severely physically handicapped, but whose humour and bloody-mindedness illuminate what might otherwise have been a harrowing story.
Young Hugh O'Connor, playing Christy as a child, is also quite remarkable, conveying the nightmarish frustration of a bright boy, presumed to be an idiot, struggling to communicate with his family. As Christy's devout, careworn mam enduring poverty and constant pregnancy, Brenda Fricker is radiant with love and faith. Ray McAnally, who sadly died in June, gives yet another of his rich characterisations as Christy's unpredictable, heavy-drinking, brickie dad.
The famous left foot, the only part of his body Christy could control, is featured in running jokes and dramatic episodes as Christy saves his mother's life, scores goals, paints portraits, fells an adversary in a pub brawl, attempts suicide, lays bricks and types his autobiography all with the eponymous appendage. And a few simple moments of happiness - like the child Christy's wonder when he is borne by his brothers and sisters to the kids' sweet, spooky Halloween street festivities - make you laugh aloud with sheer joy.