Watch a movie based on the life of a challenged or differently-abled person. Prepare a review of the movie highlighting the challenges and the qualities or methods that helped the person overcome the difficulties faced by him or her. Also comment on the challenges it must have posed to the actor who played the character and the portrayal.

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Jim Sheridan's 1989 film My Left Foot stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the real-life Irish author Christy Brown. Christy Brown was a painter and writer who was born with cerebral palsy. As a child, Christy Brown is entirely unable to walk. Throughout the film, Christy is able to master the use...

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Jim Sheridan's 1989 film My Left Foot stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the real-life Irish author Christy Brown. Christy Brown was a painter and writer who was born with cerebral palsy. As a child, Christy Brown is entirely unable to walk. Throughout the film, Christy is able to master the use of his left foot, using it to carry out many daily duties and, eventually, write and paint.

Part of what makes My Left Foot a fantastic film is the insurmountable performance of Daniel Day-Lewis. Committing every physical fiber of his being to the role, there is not a moment of screen time in which Day-Lewis's performance is not astoundingly believable.

While the film offers an empathetic glance at the difficulties that pervaded the life of Christy Brown, there is never a moment of condescension or pity. In Sheridan's film—and in Day-Lewis's performance—Brown is a man wholly worth admiring. The film never plays the role of a soapy melodrama; there is a tremendous amount of humor in the film to balance out the tragedy, and when tragedy strikes, it is played out naturally and convincingly.

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David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980) is a biopic of Joseph Merrick, the nineteenth-century British man who suffered from extreme facial and bodily deformity. Modern researchers (several years after the release of the film) concluded that Merrick probably suffered from a condition called Proteus syndrome. John Hurt, who plays the title role, wears realistic makeup to convey the look of Merrick's face, which appears to have huge tumors growing on it. Hurt's performance is excellent. You might wish to see if there are any accounts by Hurt, or by other actors who have played similar roles, about the challenge of acting with this type of heavy makeup. Also, try to compare the actor's struggle to that of Merrick himself and see how the key scenes in the film show Merrick interacting with non-disabled people.

Unfortunately, in my view, one cannot offer the same praise to the film overall as to Hurt's performance. It is shot in the same eerie black and white as Lynch's earlier film Eraserhead, and the atmosphere and themes of the two films are similar. However, as Roger Ebert pointed out when The Elephant Man was first released, the script is at fault for portraying Merrick in an inconsistent and even somewhat exploitative way. The attitude of the doctor, played by Anthony Hopkins, is curious and is oddly inconsistent as well. You might want to ask whether this can be attributed simply to "character development" or whether the changes are too extreme and seem to be done simply to make the film as melodramatic as possible.

Perhaps the film's worst flaw, as Ebert pointed out, is the opening dream sequence involving Merrick's mother. It is in keeping with Lynch's surreal horror-film approach seen in all his work but is in extremely bad taste, to say the least. The film's close, by contrast, is poignant and tragic. Merrick, in his bed, asphyxiates himself by lying down full length, something he has never been able to do because the weight of his massive head leaning back will crush his windpipe. Why, one asks, has he decided it's time to end it all, at this particular moment in time?

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