Even though My Left Foot tells the story of Christy Brown, it’s the relationship between him and his mother that dominates the movie and provides its greatest moments. Mrs. Brown may have a lot of children but Brenda Fricker makes it clear that, even though she loves all her children, Christy has a special plays in her heart. She knows that he needs her because of his illness and she also tries to raise him just as her other children (going to church with him, playing with him). Brenda Fricker plays all this with a refreshing simplicity that does not try to turn Mrs. Brown into a saintly über-mother but instead turns her into a very ordinary woman who accomplishes extraordinary things.
Besides Christy, Mrs. Brown has also the other members of her family to take care of. She especially tries to help her husband get closer to Christy and constantly encourages him to talk to his son or do something for him. Brenda Fricker realizes all the aspects of Mrs. Brown’s character wonderfully – her love and devotion and, when he falls in love, her fear of him being hurt. When Christy improves his speaking skills, she is the only one who’s not happy, saying ‘It doesn’t sound like our Christy’, maybe realizing that he won’t need her forever. Like Mrs. Baker in Butterflies are Free, Mrs. Brown has to learn that her son needs his own life.
Brenda Fricker is also a big part in the most moving scene of the whole story – when Christy Brown picks up a piece of chalk and writes ‘Mother’ on the floor. Without Brenda Fricker’s moving reaction shots, the scene wouldn’t be half as good.
Brenda Fricker does not play a very complex character but the feelings and emotions she projects are genuine and honest. When she tells Christy ‘If I could give you my legs, I would gladly take yours’, the audience knows it’s the truth.
It’s a beautiful and strong performance of a strong woman which never pales next to the work by Daniel Day-Lewis.