Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Heartwarming Film Offers More Than Football

By JANE WILSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published November 26, 2009

Filled with humor, sentiment and heart, “The Blind Side” is a film that will appeal to a wide audience. Just in time for Thanksgiving, “The Blind Side” will make you thankful for your blessings and want to open your heart to a wider definition of family.

Directed by John Lee Hancock, and based on the book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis, the film is based on the true story of football player Michael Oher. Set in Memphis, Tenn., “The Blind Side” opens as the football coach at Wingate High School is convinced to bring young Michael to the school on a scholarship. He is convinced by Michael’s prodigious size and athletic talents, even though the boy is academically challenged. Michael is living with the parents of a friend. When that situation falls through, he is basically homeless, having lost touch with his mother, a crack addict. Deliverance comes from an unlikely source—Leigh Anne Tuohy, a dynamo of a woman, whose feisty exterior hides a huge, loving heart. Michael slowly becomes a part of the Tuohy family, and both his life and theirs are changed forever.

Religion does not pay an overt role in the film, but the Tuohys’ actions are clearly a result of moral choice and the opportunity to “do the Christian thing.” Financially, it is easy for the privileged Leigh Anne and her husband, Sean, to provide for Michael. What makes their actions special is the love that they show to the underprivileged young man. In spite of judgmental friends and doubting officials, they make him a part of their family, with no boundaries, and they soon love him as fiercely as they do their biological children. His accomplishments fill them with pride, and his disappointments wound them. As a result of bringing Michael into their lives, the Tuohys grow closer to each other. Younger brother S.J. clearly worships the older boy, and even teenage sister Collins braves the scorn of her friends to help Michael.

Along the way, Michael discovers the special gift he has for playing football. Much is made of Michael’s protective tendencies. He will defend anything and anyone he loves. Leigh Anne helps him transfer that talent into the game, and Michael becomes a gifted tackle and attracts the attention of the recruiters for several major college teams.

Despite the emphasis on football, “The Blind Side” is not just a sports movie. More than that, it is the story of a family, most specifically, the story of the love between a mother and her son. Sandra Bullock is a revelation in the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy. In a departure from her usual type of character, Bullock is dead on as a smart, tough, take-charge Southern wife and mother. In a role that has the opportunity to veer into either sassy caricature or maudlin sentimentality, Bullock gives a contained, affecting performance. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way in which Leigh Anne slowly opens her home and her heart to Michael. She treats him in a matter-of-fact way, never gushing and never letting him see how he affects her. This is the perfect way to treat the young man who might be scared off by a more overt display.

For his part, Quinton Aaron as Michael stands up to Bullock’s performance. He is quietly touching as the young man who is solemn, slow, but with deep humanity underneath. He clearly shows Michael’s development as he gradually learns that people do care about him. In fact, all of the supporting actors do a fine job—Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy, Kathy Bates as Miss Sue, Michael’s tutor, Jae Head as S.J., Lily Collins as Collins—each adds just the right amount of emotion and humor to the film.

“The Blind Side” has a good sense of humor to go along with its emotion. Some of the funniest scenes come as Michael is being recruited. Cameos from the coaches of several major Southern universities, as well as the negotiating talents of younger brother S.J., add to the humor.

“The Blind Side” is a perfect choice for a holiday film. Touching, funny, uplifting—it will make you grateful for your loved ones and anxious to help those less fortunate than you. Be sure to stay for the credits to see footage of the real-life Michael Oher and his adopted family. This footage is one of the highlights of the experience.

Jane Wilson, a local writer and movie enthusiast, holds a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X Church, Conyers.