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The Blind Side (2009)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

As a true story, the strength of The Blind Side is that it could have been embellished oh so much, but it was not. I suspect that no film adaptation of a true story is ever 100% factual, and I expect that’s the case with The Blind Side. Whatever its actual degree of embellishment, there are very many places where it would have been easy to have made it more engaging or exciting by further embellishing. Instead, the filmmakers treat us with respect, trusting that we can engage with the story as it is: Plain where it’s plain; touching where it’s touching; predictable where it’s predictable; and with real people all the way through. On the other side of it, the film could have gone sappy, but its realness helps it avoid that, too.

Real stories have drama, but not always high drama. The great things we do in life, though most often difficult and frequently risky, don’t always make the most exciting stories. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty in The Blind Side that is interesting, fun, good, tense, true, and beautiful, it’s just that, in the film’s this-is-what-happened style, lazy cynics can easily find it to be soft-edged and sentimental. Art house film critics may list ways that it could have been more artistic. I find that it stands quite well as it is: A normal story about normal people who stepped outside their comfort zones to do something extraordinary.

If The Blind Side is flawed, I suggest that we view it as flawed in the ways that normal people are flawed. For example, in the opening sequence, Leigh Anne Tuohy explains the film’s title by narrating a painful moment in football history. The narration is somewhat dry, matter of fact, and disconnected from the rest of the story — but then, a normal mom might narrate it just that way. As it is, it sets the tone that the film is about normal people. The story is told with insight, care, and humor, connecting the dots between love, duty, recovery, and life. Although Michael wins big in the end, the film is not a follow-your-dreams film. The big win sort of falls in at the end, after Leigh Anne follows the tug on her heart to care for Michael and to lead him in taking each next step. The performances are strong — Sandra Bullock is particularly fun and sassy — and the filmcraft is good overall. It’s most definitely worth seeing.

The Touhys are a well-to-do family pursuing their daily well-to-do lives. The children go to a private Christian high school, which Michael Oher, a very large down-and-out teenager, by an unusual set of connections, begins going to. Michael winds up homeless, and one cold evening the Touhys drive by as he scuffles along the sidewalk. The mother, Leigh Anne, tells her husband to turn the car around. They take Michael in for the night. Big and quiet, Michael is an imposing and ominous figure, and the Touhys don’t know for sure just what they’ve done. However, all is well in the morning, and the connections between them deepen. From there, it’s a story about building trust, caring enough to learn who someone is, overcoming barriers, rebuilding lives and, eventually, seeing big dreams open wide. Running time: 128 min.

There are a few light touches on sexuality here and there, but nothing explicit besides one good-natured threat referring to a male body part. Several scenes are fairly tense, as are some very brief flashbacks and a fistfight.

  • Director: John Lee Hancock
  • Screenplay: John Lee Hancock, based on book by Michael Lewis
  • Leads: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox, Kathy Bates
  • Cinematography: Alar Kivilo
  • Music: Carter Burwell

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