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Written By: Luke Mythen
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Companies: Alcon Entertainment and Fortis Films
Director: John Lee Hancock
Producers: Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove and Gil Netter
Scriptwriter: John Lee Hancock
Main Cast: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron and Kathy Bates
Released: November 20 2009 (US) and March 26 2010 (UK)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
The Blind Side is a 2009 semi-biographical sports drama film, based on the upbringing and career of American NFL star Michael Oher. The film was written and directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr Banks, 2013; The Rookie, 2002), and is based on the book by Michael Lewis entitled ‘The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game’. The film was nominated for many awards, and picked up the Best Film prize at the Academy Awards and at the Teen Choice Awards. Sandra Bullock also received special praise for her performance, picking up an Academy Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and a Golden Globe in the same category.
Now, I am not going to lie: I have not got a clue about American football. I do not know how to play the game, I do not know the rules of the game, I do not even know any of the major stars in the game. It is something that has never interested me and, when I have seen it on television, either at Wembley Stadium or in its natural home of the USA, quite frankly it has bored me. So when I discovered The Blind Side, I had my reservations about it. I knew that it had done very well during the awards season, and I admire the work of Sandra Bullock in other films (Gravity, released in 2013, and Speed, released in 1994, are two such examples); however, I was still unsure about this movie. In the end, I finally decided to give the film a chance, and I am very thankful that I did. This carries a number of different emotional story arcs that effectively convey into the overall plot of the film; for that reason alone, it is a must-watch for any film fan. Notice that I did not say sports fan! Yes, the premise of the film is about American football, but that pales into insignificance when you watch the emotional entanglement of the Tuohy family as they battle to help a young man find his feet in a world that has never been fair to him nor has it provided him with an opportunity to shine.
Sandra Bullock is fantastic in this movie. Her character, Leigh Anne Tuohy, starts out as a focused interior designer who works very hard. She is married to her husband Sean Tuohy, played by country singer Tim McGraw (Friday Night Lights, 2004). They have a happy family with two children: a young boy named Sean Jr. “S.J.” Tuohy, portrayed by Jae Head (Hancock, 2008), and 16-year-old daughter Collins Tuohy, played by British-born actress Lilly Collins (The English Teacher, 2013). The opening act introduces us to these characters during a volleyball game between two schools. This scene was designed to emphasise the family’s rich sporting background. On the way home, they pass by Michael, or ‘Big Mike’ as he is referred to initially. Leigh Anne feels sympathy for him, and decides to invite him back to their family residence.
To be honest, this was my major disagreement with the plot-line: yes, the narrative is based on true events, but the entire family welcome him in, basically with open arms. Surely, there must have been some resistance from the husband or daughter about letting a stranger stay in their home. In my opinion, they could have covered this in a little more depth. However, it is a small gripe that does not disrupt the flow of the film nor does it take one’s attention away. I am a big fan of the BBC film reviewer Mark Kermode, and he said something about a film once that really stayed with me. His comment was: “If you are watching a film and you start wondering and thinking about what should be in the film, whether it is realistic of the characters to do a certain action, then you do not have a care for the characters in the film. You are more interested about other things than what is actually on the screen.” Despite my reservations about the aforementioned scene, at no point in this film did I feel like that; I was completely engrossed from beginning to end.
By the middle act, The Blind Side it is trying to pull a number of different yet interlinked story-lines along. You have the struggle of Michael trying to fit in at his new adopted home, during which time he is trying to get good grades so he can go off to college, and he is still trying to impress his school football team. In the meantime, Leigh Anne is trying to find Michael’s true mother and to learn where he originally came from. This could cause complications for the viewer and become difficult to follow; however, this is not the case. The movie has a seamless flow to it that keeps you interested without too much actually happening on-screen. As the film rolls on, Leigh Anne instills confidence into Mike to try and make sure that he can become the very best at American football. Now, Leigh Anne isn’t in any need of extra cash, so from the beginning you are aware that her motives for helping Michael are different, and I believe that is what helps the movie to stand out; what are Leigh Anne’s motives?
By the time we reach the climax, the film has followed the usual routines for this genre; the problem has been solved, and cue a celebratory montage. However, one question is thrown at Michael which, in turn, is thrown to the audience, and suddenly the conclusion is not all what it seems. What is that question? Now that would be a spoiler, as it makes one reflect over the events of the film and make you decide your own feelings on the situation, partly because the question is essentially left unanswered. We are left to assume that her motives are positive, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the lady on whom this is based made her decisions for the same reasons. All I will say is that it relates to an affiliation to a certain college football team, which is foreshadowed during the volleyball game from the opening scene. Despite this unanswered question, the ending provides enough satisfaction that you will probably not be wishing for a sequel, but part of the movie’s strength is that the tale is told so well, and the ending is conclusive enough that no sequel is necessary. I certainly found it to be 129 minutes well spent.
Overall, I believe that The Blind Side was a real success. It drew me in, and I am a UK resident with no knowledge of or interest in American football. And at times, I was inspired by what the Tuohy family did for Michael and, in turn, what he did in return. This movie is fantastic at what it aims to do, which is to bring you into this perfect American family and take you on the same journey as Big Mike himself.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good