- Released Internationally on 20/11/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 26/03/10
Preview (Published 01/03/10 in VIDA magazine)
In a nutshell
Based on a true story, this film chronicles the rise of a current professional American football player. Growing up as an obese, poor orphan, he shifts from one foster home to another until he is taken in by an affluent family, who help him reach his full potential, while learning a few lessons of their own.
Why we’re hyped
One type of film most people never get tired of is a good sports story. They invariably involve a hopeless underdog, and they invariably leave you with a lump in your throat by the end of it. From the religious racers of Chariots of Fire to the boyish charm of Rudy or the Mighty Ducks, sport has that magical, believable element that can prove moving and inspirational without needing to resort to fancy effects or incredible fiction.
Who’s in it?
Every good sports story needs a good coach, and Sandra Bullock has single-handedly brought this film lots of attention and headlines with her career-best performance as the mother of the family that takes the boy under their wing. At the time of writing, she is looking like the favourite to take home the Best Actress Oscar, unless Meryl Streep cooks up an upset. Quinton Aaron plays the underdog - a certain Michael Oher who currently plays in the NFL for the Baltimore Raven. Kathy Bates (Titanic, Misery) plays his tutor, and the film is directed by John Lee Hancock, who previously wrote the underrated gem A Perfect World and directed The Alamo.
It’s all good
One of the more straightforward ‘feel-good’ films of the year, this little gem has no reservations about presenting this modern rag-to-riches story in the simplest of fashions, without needing any major bad guys or periods of turmoil to interfere with the hero on his journey. It almost feels too good to be true, which is nothing to be ashamed of considering it’s based on a true story. There’s no doubt that Michael was lucky to be taken in by the Tuohy family, as their combination of altruism and endless resources was just what he needed to reach the heights he did. Some may argue that they could have touched more lives by distributing their donations rather than showering them on him, but that’s their business, so good for them (and him).
Waiting for his smile
Quinton Aaron gives a suitably reserved performance as the troubled ‘Big Mike’, and it works because we only gain access to his words, emotions and true character once the Tuohys do – a slow process of breaking down his defence mechanisms. This makes those moments when he breaks out into a genuine smile worth waiting for, as we realise that he knows full well what this adoptive family is sacrificing for him. Bullock’s performance is a break from her frequent clumsy roles, and she commands most of the screen time as the no-nonsense mum who wears the trousers in the Tuohy mansion and who is more used to showing her teeth than her softer side.
In the end
While many of us non-Americans might be slightly alienated by the lengthy details about American football and Oher’s choice of football scholarship, these are thankfully transcended by the true story of this social outcast who got lucky and had his life turned around by a loving family. We’ve seen it all before, but it’s still stirring to watch.