“The Blind Side,” released in 2009, does a good job in establishing its non-football story before delving into the inevitable big-game sequence that occurs in all sports movies. Sandra Bullock, who won an academy award for best actress for her performance, plays a wealthy designer and housewife with children who attend an exclusive Christian school. One day, a giant and underprivileged African-American teenager named Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) arrives at the school. His presence and apparent inability to handle the curriculum immediately raises concern among the faculty and staff, but nobody realizes that “Big Mike” has nothing and practically lives on the street.
Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, and she lives with her husband Sean in a mansion in an exclusive neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee. Their precocious and tiny little boy, S. J. (Jae Head), makes friends with Michael, and that catches the attention of Leigh Anne. Although the audience knows a lot more about Michael, the movie makes a great deal out of Leigh Anne’s initial ignorance of Michael’s plight. The puzzled Leigh Anne offers Michael the family couch when she notices him wandering around at night, but then his strangely reticent behavior compels her to find a way to develop a psychological bond with him.
Oher, who later went on to play offensive tackle for the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL), immediately catches the attention of the football coach at the Christian high school. But teaching Oher the game of American football proves challenging. For one, even though he possesses great size, he’s withdrawn and protective, which are not good traits for the game. Bullock and Aaron play off each other well, and the bonds of their mother-son type relationship develop slowly and wonderfully as the movie goes on.
Although mainly about acceptance and love, the movie also explores the college system’s misunderstanding of family loyalty. When Michael chooses Ole Miss over the University of Tennessee, Louisiana State University and the University of Arkansas, the National Collegiate Athletic Association launches an investigation that charges the Tuohy’s of taking Michael into their family only to prod him into going to Ole Miss. Anyone following the story would find this ridiculous, of course. The movie employs actual famous college football coaches (Lou Holtz, Nick Saban, etc.) when showing the recruiting scenes at the Tuohy home. After hearing what they promise athletes, it must be hard for some families to contend with pressures of this circus. In that regard, the movie makes a good point about the importance of a strong and loving family.