Movie Review On My Left Foot-The Story Of Christy Brown
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1. The disability that is portrayed in the movie My Left Foot-The Story of Christy Brown is cerebral palsy. The plot of the movie revolves around the main character, Christy Brown, and his struggle to become dependent, even though he has only his left foot functioning. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder of movements and positions caused by defect or brain damage at birth or an early age. "Cerebral palsy affects the motor area of the brain’s outer layer (called the cerebral cortex), the part of the brain that directs muscle movement" (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke). The interesting fact about cerebral palsy is that the condition does not impact the brain function, but only the link between brain and muscles. In this sense, a person suffering from cerebral palsy is aware of his condition and of his acceptance in the social life of the immediate surroundings.
Against all odds, Christy Brown manages to become a successful writer and painter by using only his left foot. Everything that Christy Brown does is done with his left foot. From his birth, to his death, Christy Brown carries a stigma of being "a cripple". However, even though the condition cannot be cured, there are some ways in which a quality of life can be improved. In the movie, the viewers see that when Christy Brown becomes a young adult he meets a specialist in cerebral palsy, Dr. Eileen Cole, and with the help of the specialist he manages to improve his speaking skills and many other things. He learns how to pronounce sounds properly, how to aim the air flow in the right direction. The downside of the disease is that the people suffering from cerebral palsy are aware of their condition and the impact that they leave on others. It can leave a deep impact on their state of mind and cause severe depression and anxiety.
2. The theory that can be applied to disability presented in the movie My Left Foot-The Story of Christy Brown is a social theory of disability. This theory has evolved and gained new perspective from its beginning during the second half of the twentieth century. The first scholar that introduced this theory is Mike Oliver. According to Barns and Mercer (2004), "The emphasis on disabling social and environmental barriers was contrasted with the current orthodoxy that viewed disability as a ‘personal tragedy’, and disabled people as in need of ‘care’ (p.3). In this sense, the disabled should not be oppressed by the dominant society, but the society should try and include them in social life. Oliver (1990) emphasizes that the "disability is a social state and not a medical condition" (p. 2).
The barriers of the main character that are described in the movie include the disability of Christy Brown to function independently. The house that Christy Brown lives in is not suitable for a person suffering from cerebral palsy. His mother is confined to carrying him up and down the steep stairs. Not until he is a young adult, he does not have a wheelchair and is carried in a wooden cart by his brothers. Even though his mother is a strong and dominant woman, she is not able to devote her full attention to Christy Brown because she has other children that need her attention as well. Due to the strong impact of religion, Christy's mother is constantly pregnant and is under a large metal and physical pressure. Even though his family accepts Christy as he is, the others do not look at him their equal. In the scene where Christy Brown manages to call for help after his mother falls, one of the neighbors makes a comment regarding him as is a burden, "a cripple" (My Left Foot-The Story of Christy Brown).
3. Apart from the theme of disability that is presented in the movie, there are other sub-themes that appear along with the main theme. One of the themes that are dominant is the theme of religion in a typical Irish family. The fact that the family of Christy Brown is a religious family that follows the letter of Christianity blindly can be attributed to the strong impact of the surrounding. Christy's mother is a religious person, who tries to find consolation in religion. She goes to church regularly, prays, and lights candles. On the other hand, Christy gives up on religion and finds his personal life philosophy.
Other themes that are analyzed in this move include gender inequality and social inequality. The strong gender roles are defined in the movie. The only role that the father has is to provide for his family and make children. The roles of women include taking care of children and household. However, we see Christie’s mother breaking these rules when she secretly correspondents with her daughter who entered a marriage while pregnant which is against Catholic religion and is considered to be a sin. The theme of religion is perplexed with the poverty of large families that lived at the time in Dublin. The living conditions were poor, and all that that they had was each other.
4. As Christy Brown was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at his birth, the viewers can observe the attitude of the immediate surroundings to Christy Brown and his disability. His father does not accept him as an equal family member. We see Christy Brown lying separately from the rest of the family. Only when Christy writes a word with his left foot, his father accepts him. His family, brothers and sister, accept him as he is and try to include him in their activities. The brothers play football with him and his sister is his best friend until her marriage.
Others see Christy Brown as "a cripple", a person who is below them. Christy Brown longs for female friendship, but is constantly rejected by women during his youth. The neighbors feel sorry for the family that has to take care about Christy Brown and he is not seen as an individual but as a tragedy. Generally, the society stigmatized the condition that Christy Brown had without taking a deeper insight into the condition.
5. Bearing on mind that the movie is produced in Hollywood, the targeting audience includes all people who have prejudiced or stereotyped opinion regarding disabled individuals. The intention of the movie director was to prove that the strength of will is so powerful that can change what is someone’s disadvantage into his advantage. Christy Brown is a hero of the movie and a proof that everything is possible and that a person should never fail in front of obstacles. He never gives up in finding true love, no matter how harshly and how many times he has been turned down in the past.
Even though Christy Brown is a person who has cerebral palsy, the viewers can identify with him because he offers resistance towards his disease, resistance towards the rigid view of the society. Viewers can see that he is only a human, a human who tries to find a solution in alcohol and suicide attempt, a human with painful feelings capable to love and to be loved. The move is directed towards all of those people who cross the street, or turn their head on the other side when they see a disabled person. Christy Brown is a person capable of writing books and drawing pieces that the majority of 'normal' people cannot. He is an artist.
6. The move My Left Foot-The Story of Christy Brown left a deep emotional effect on my understanding of the society in general and on the people with disabilities. I realized that they should not be regarded as "medical cases", but as equal individuals who need a lot of physical and psychological strength in order to do something that others take for granted. They are stigmatized in the eyes of the society, and no matter how hard the society tries to include them in the social life they will always be on the margins. Despite of that, they are people who have the courage to refuse the mainstream views. They did not choose to be what they are, but they have learned how to cope with the outside word and their condition at the same time.
Finally, the move taught me about the power of free will. Everything is possible if you believe and try hard enough. The dreams can come true, but the sacrifice is needed. I have learned to observe people under their outside appearance and not to judge them. I cannot judge Christy’s father because he is a product of the society that he lived in, nor can I judge his neighbors. The only thing that I can do is to try and understand their reasons and try to find my own system of believes that respects everyone, regardless of the gender, skin color or disability.
My Left Foot-The Story of Christy Brown. 1989. Directed by Jim Sheridan
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Cerebral Palsy: Hope Through Research. Retrieved from: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/detail_cerebral_palsy.htm
Barnes, Colin and Mercer, Geof. (2004). Theorising and Researching Disability from a Social Model Perspective. Leeds: The Disability Press, pp. 1-17. Retrieved from: http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Barnes-implementing-the-social-model-chapter-1.pdf
Oliver, Mike. (23. July 1990). The Individual and Social Models of Disability. Retrieved from: http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Oliver-in-soc-dis.pdf
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