I'm really excited about this! I've asked several adoption bloggers to share about a movie that's connected with their adoption story in a powerful way. New guest posts will run every other week or so, on Fridays. With the Superbowl two days away it seems fitting that the first post, by adoption blogger and author Lori Holden, is about the touching, family-friendly football film, The Blindside.
But. The Blind Side begins with football (a clip of Joe Theismann and Lawrence Taylor) and ends with football (spoiler avoidance). So Husband was quickly on board. And he STAYED on board due to the strength of the acting, the interesting plot twists (that seem slightly over-the-top, except that they actually happened), and the endearing, welling-up feel-good story. You probably already know that The Blind Side is an adoption story. A transracial adoption story. A crack-addicted biological mom, a barely-known father, and a shattered childhood story.
(Technically, there wasn't an adoption -- just legal guardianship out of foster care.)
Still. It's the story of a boy with no family (functionally speaking), and a family who was open to him. Of the openness on both sides that allowed for an amazing transformation of both the boy and the family.
Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Ann Tuohy, a Memphis socialite and lover of beautiful things, a steel magnolia with an unyielding will. Singer Tim McGraw is her husband, Sean, owner of a slew of Taco Bells who doesn't need to report to work on a regular schedule. They have two children: Collins, a high school cheerleader, and SJ (Sean Jr), a young and precocious boy who befriends the older and lonely Michael, played exquisitely by Quinton Aaron.
Michael, 16-ish, quiet and somewhat lost, has been in and out of foster homes most of his life. He eventually leaves each one to seek his elusive mother, sometimes finding her and sometimes not. He owns the clothes on his back and an extra shirt. He hangs out at a laundromat. By chance, he gets into a private school.
Where he struggles academically. Where he crosses paths with SJ and later with the whole Tuohy family. Where testing shows that he scores incredibly low on every measured criteria except one: Protective Instinct, which is at 98%. This proves to be the key to both Michael's past as well as his future.
So begins the transforming. The film touches on the two-way street of giving and getting when adding a family member -- not just the rescuing part. "He's changing MY life," Leigh Ann says when her socialite friends commend her efforts. Too often, outsiders see adoption, especially foster-adoption, as an act of charity, of selflessness, when really, those in the know are aware of how much is gained.
Some of the more difficult parts of the loss of Michael's biological family are revealed. Leigh Ann tracks down Michael's mother, and we see her pain of letting him down. In this scene, Leigh Ann doesn't feel the need to replace the mother, but simply serve as mom in light of the mother's inability. Secondly, Michael's encounter with a waiter in a restaurant ends in an embrace. When Leigh Ann asks who that was, we can see the deep scar from the separation of another biological family member.
Transracial issues are addressed in neighborhood scenes; the comparison between the bona fide mansion of the Tuohy's and the projects of Michael's roots are stark. Watching Michael and Leigh Ann move between the worlds is anxiety-provoking.
And there are flashbacks of Michael's earlier trauma, as his healing and integration begin to take place.
A glaring but minor drawback: there are no messy family dynamics. No school issues for the Tuohy children, no problem with chores and responsibilities. Just two perfect children gleefully bringing a new and near-grown brother into their lives without any adjustment problems. Maybe I'm just jealous.
The film ends with a "What happened to ... ?" segment. And we see the real-life unfolding of events, with photos of the real Leigh Ann, Sean, Collins, SJ, and Michael.
My children and I watched The Blind Side at home when it came out on DVD. Parts of Michael's story were hard for them to witness. They especially enjoyed the scenes in which Michael wasn't sure what or whom he could trust and how that resolved. When the Baltimore Ravens play anyone but the Denver Broncos, we root for Michael Oher on football Sundays.
Lori Holden writes from Denver at LavenderLuz.com about parenting and living mindfully. Her book, The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available for pre-order on Amazon. She has written for Adoptive Families magazine, Parenting magazine, for BlogHer and MileHighMamas.com. Lori is the keynote speaker at the March 9 Parenthood for Me Gala. On Twitter she's @LavLuz
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