While it is indeed adapted from the 2006 Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game”, which explored how the left tackle has grown into being one of the most important parts of an American football team by using the example of Michael Oher, a homeless Black teenager who became a star left tackle, “The Blind Side” isn’t really about football. In fact, as was the case with “Jerry Maguire”, the football scenes are probably the least interesting thing about it.
What is truly interesting and incredibly moving about John Lee Hancock‘s film, which has more in common with “Antwone Fisher” than with most other sports dramas, is Big Mike (Quinton Aaron)’s personal life story. Born in an impoverished Memphis neighborhood to a crack-cocaine-addicted mother (Adriane Lenox) and a father who took off a week after he was born, Michael grew up having problems in school, living in various foster homes and eventually ending up homeless as a teen. Through unexpected circumstances, though, he was enrolled into a Christian private school and was welcomed into their home by a rich white couple (Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw), who nurtured him into becoming not only an NFL player but, most importantly, a cared for, well-adjusted, happy individual.
Like I said, what struck me the most wasn’t the rags to riches story; it was seeing how this kid, who had every excuse (and the imposing physique!) to become an angry young man involved with gang members, violence and drugs, was instead able to maintain his decency, his dignity and his pride. Played by Quinton Aaron as a quiet, sad but gentle giant, Michael Oher never complains, pities himself or asks anything from anybody… And yet through the kindness of strangers, he received what he always silently longed for: a loving family.
“The Blind Side” takes its time with the characters, never rushing to get to the big plot points – it takes something like an hour before we even get to the start of Oher’s football career. Smoothly directed by Hancock, the movie isn’t overly melodramatic either. It’s sentimental, sure, and I cried my eyes out during quite a few scenes, but it was always through the natural emotional heft of this true story and the quality of the performances, not because Hancock was being cloying and manipulative.
There is some Oscar buzz around the film in general and Sandra Bullock in particular, and I think it’s deserved. Her turn as the strong-minded, no-nonsense Leigh Ann Tuohy is almost as fun and memorable as Julia Roberts’ portrayal of Erin Brockovich was, and even though “The Blind Spot” is hardly the most daring, profound or clever picture of the year, it’s certainly one of the most touching.