The Blind Side

Director    John Lee Hancock
Starring    Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates, Jae Head, Ray McKinnon
Release    20 NOV (US) 26 MAR (UK)    Certificate 12A
4 stars


8th March 2010

American football is a sport we don't get much information on over here; as Alan Partridge said, it's just futuristic rugby, right? But it's okay that the rules are overly confusing and we don't play it at school, because there is little to no gridiron action included in American football movie The Blind Side.

On the face of it, The Blind Side is simply a well-funded Lifetime Original Movie, based as it is on the life story of Michael "Big Mike" Oher, a big lad with fast feet and no foreseeable future outside the ghetto.

Born to a crackhead mother, and pushed from home to home with no discernible education, Oher (Quinton Aaron) was 16 when he was enrolled at Briarcrest Christian School. He had applied purely because a friend had, and he was accepted entirely on Christian duty, having a measured IQ of 80. One day after school, he's spotted walking in the snow in his only clothes of long shorts and a t-shirt by Leigh Ann Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), who invites him into her home and her life, feeds, clothes and helps Oher to graduate high school, get to college and eventually become an All American left tackle. Whatever one of those is.

[gallery]Michael Oher's story itself is ridiculously moving, and hearing it you might get a lump in your throat: it's a nice reminder of the milk of human kindness. The film doesn't yank at the heartstrings and isn't overly melodramatic, it merely tells the kid's story. Director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) does this with gentle humour, and with excellent source material in Michael Lewis' book of the same name, he cannot fail to tell a heartfelt, uplifting story about doing good things, and being excellent to one another.

It's not all hugs and colour-blindness. Michael was one of the few black students attending a middle-class, Christian, Republican school and living with a well-to-do white family, Hancock shows how the Tuohy's friends and Oher's poverty-stricken neighbours react to his fostering. Not well. And one sequence has the Tuohy's motivation for all this "aggressive philanthropy" called into question - why would anyone do anything for this kid if there was nothing in it for them?

There's been a lot said about Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning performance, and it really is solid. Certainly the best dramatic role she's ever played, but this overlooks the fact that Bullock has a solid skill-set in charming and funny. Playing grown-up, thoughtful, charming and funny isn't as much of a stretch for her as the press seem to think it is. Quinton Aaron is quietly sensitive and beautifully shows Oher's discomfort in his own skin and surroundings for the first part of the movie, and his loyalty and love for his new family for the second.

The Blind Side's main downfall is its length. At over two hours, there was definitely room for tighter editing. While it was probably important to show that Michael received home tutoring, and didn't magically get smart overnight, a couple of scenes seemed shoe-horned in just because the role had gone to Kathy Bates. Towards the end of the film there are in-jokes and cameos from real NFL coaches and players that fall on deaf eyes here. It makes the last twenty minutes seem longer than they are.

It's a great story of humanity and love, but there's nothing overtly memorable about The Blind Side - that is, except for the general feeling of goodwill that follows you around for days afterwards. And that's no bad thing.

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