The Blind Side

The Blind Side


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

The Blind Side centres on the real-life story of football star Michael Oher (played with monosyllabic, heavy-set grace by Quinton Aaron). Despite having a natural aptitude for American football, Michael at 17 is homeless and penniless, the son of a crack addict. As a result, his talent seems sure to be wasted even as the coach of a top private school in Memphis, Tennessee, yearns to give him a shot on his school team.

By chance, however, the withdrawn Michael encounters the wealthy and very Christian Touhy family, whose matriarch is the generous but outspoken Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock). At first offering the homeless boy just a bed for the night, the Touhys soon find themselves bringing him into their family, supporting him as he nurtures his talent for football where his size and skill make him ideal in the 'blind side' position.

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The Blind Side straddles two cinematic genres that seem peculiarly American today, being both an American football story and part of the 'based on an incredible true story' tradition. It cannot be denied that it is well-packaged and polished. But despite having been a huge success stateside, and having earned its main star Sandra Bullock an Oscar for best actress, the film's suffers most obviously from its glaring lurches into saccharine territory. Despite the horrific upbringing of its main character, and the complex cultural and emotional situations and tensions that one expects would occur by pulling a young black homeless child suddenly into the upper echelons of American white society, director John Lee Hancock doesn't seem to have the guts to go the full distance and pulls his punches every time. We get gloss instead of grit.

There is seemingly no obstacle to Michael's progress that cannot be solved by a bit of gumption, an inspirational speech or annoying badgering from Bullock's character. Before long, everyone is getting along in a glorious, racially harmonious nirvana. It is all just a little too smooth. There is also, regardless of the fact that it is based on a true story, something unsettling about watching yet another movie in which a white family (or sport) saves a poor black youngster from the oblivion of the streets.

In fact, Bullock's no-nonsense performance as Leigh Anne to an extent makes everything worse. So large is her presence that she smothers any chance to mine more of the depths of Michael's character. Perhaps this stems from the fact that the film seems more interested in her than the poor boy who should be its main subject.

The film's impact also feels dampened from the start by being released in the shadow of the much praised and far grittier Precious, which also deals with a young and extremely introverted black person struggling with adversity but seems to hit far fewer shaky notes on the way. But then, The Blind Side is determined right from the start to dispense hope in large, easy-to-digest lumps, and in this regard, at least, it does succeed.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2010
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Biopic of football star Michael Oher.
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Nick Da Costa *

Director: John Lee Hancock

Writer: John Lee Hancock, Michael Lewis

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox, Kathy Bates, Catherine Dyer, Andy Stahl

Year: 2009

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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