Actress Sandra Bullock, director John Lee Hancock and a family from Memphis have done just that in the film "The Blind Side," which opens in theaters this weekend, and tells the true story of a homeless black youth (Michael Oher) who is taken in by a white family. He goes on to play college and pro football.
Says Bullock, who stars in the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a no-nonsense, compassionate woman of faith who made a homeless black youth a part of her family, "While it is obvious how much the Tuohys did for Michael Oher, it was not that one-sided. They certainly did a good deed in taking in this young man in such a loving and generous way. But, in turn, he brought out a side of their family that they didn't even realize was missing. The family seemed to have all the success and joy in the world, but when Michael showed up, it was as if he was the final piece to the puzzle."
Bullock's real-life counterpart, Leigh Anne Tuohy, adds, "I think Michael had a much greater impact on our lives than we did on his. You take so much in life for granted, but when Michael moved in with us, he made us realize how blessed we are. We viewed life differently after he joined our family."
How Michael Oher became a part of the Tuohy family was first chronicled in the best-selling book "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game," written by Michael Lewis, who reveals that he "stumbled" on the story of Oher and the Tuohys almost by accident. Lewis, who had gone to high school with Leigh Anne's husband, Sean Tuohy, had initially contacted his old classmate to interview him for an article about their school baseball coach. That eventually led to his meeting Michael and learning of his relationship with the Tuohys.
"For anyone who wants to interpret the whole thing as some kind of miracle, well, there's a lot of evidence," the author says, laughing. Here's what makes that statement truly astonishing: According to Sean Tuohy, author Michael Lewis is an atheist.
During my one-on-one interview with the Tuohys, I discovered that the 27-year married couple works in tandem, completing each other's thoughts.
Sean Tuohy: "I've known Michael for 40 years. And I tease him that he didn't write this book. It just came out of the end of his pen, that's all."
Phil Boatwright: "Has Mr. Lewis become a believer?"
Leigh Anne Tuohy: "We'll pray for six people six times a day, for six months. We had him on our list and he kept saying, "You take me off that list." But we didn't."
Sean: "He knows there's something out there. He'll come around."
Phil Boatwright: "What is the message you want for people to leave the theater with?"
Sean: "Society devalues human beings by simply looking the other way. Here's this 6-foot-6 incredibly athletic, undeniably intelligent, street savvy, book savvy kid, and he was probably four weeks from falling through the cracks. So if he can fall through the cracks, imagine who else will."
Leigh Anne: "We need to find a system that allows kids like Michael to succeed."
Sean: "I always tell people that I feel the person that's going to cure cancer is in the inner city right now. And he may not get out ... that's the message, not the answer. I wish I had the answer. But somebody does. So if enough people see it, talk about it, acknowledge it, well, there's some smart people out there. Somebody's going to find the answer."
Phil Boatwright: "I compare the message in "The Blind Side" with that of 'It's A Wonderful Life' -- the things you say and do can affect someone else's life."
Sean: "Oh, don't get her started on 'It's A Wonderful Life.' She watches that 400 times a year."
Later that day, I was able to interview director John Lee Hancock (who also helmed "The Rookie" and produced my favorite kid-and-his-canine movie, "My Dog Skip"). I asked Mr. Hancock, a professing Christian, about the movie's racial undertones. As portrayed in the movie, some of the Tuohys' friends are racists.
John Lee Hancock: "It's a true story. Leigh Anne Tuohy didn't stop and put that kid in the car because he was black. She stopped because he was cold. I never looked at it as a race movie. I looked at it as a statement about the need for nurturing. It's amazing what a bed, a family, love and a focus on education can do. A kid they thought might be mildly retarded made the dean's list that first year. That's a pretty good argument for nurturing."
Leigh Anne: "This movie opens on Nov. 20, National Adoption Day. That date was set months ago, but two or three weeks ago everyone realized that was National Adoption Day."
Sean: "There are people who probably think that's an accident."
Leigh Anne: "It's just another way that God's hand has been on this."
Those involved in the production have a right to feel good about their work and hopeful about the future. This film will remind people that with just a little effort, we can open the door for miraculous change. Both funny and uplifting, "The Blind Side" is truly one of the best films of the year.
(The Blind Side receives a PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, including a gun shot, and for drug and sexual references. We do not see drug use, but it is obvious that a couple of the youths in the bad part of town are trading in narcotics. In my opinion, the content is handled discreetly, and the film deserved a PG.)
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective and is the author of "Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad." To learn more about his work, visit previewonline.org.
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