Quite how Sandra Bullock deserved an Oscar for her one-note turn as bleached supermum Leigh-Anne is a mystery, since it transforms a potentially worthwhile character study into a grandstanding star vehicle. Her comic timing is just-so and she invests the homespun one-liners with a veneer of sincerity, but there’s no way this is a real person. It’s Sandra Bullock doing her thing.
On the other hand, Michael (Quinton Aaron), the troubled outcast to whom she gives a stable home –the rest of her family know better than to argue with Leigh-Anne – is hard to read, beyond ‘gentle giant’ cultural clichés. Meanwhile, director John Hancock shows us enough of the lad’s scary, hope-free ghetto background to tell us we don’t want to go there. He lends the proceedings a patina of class and a certain entertainment value, yet the whole approach (in marked contrast to, say, ‘Precious’) is about putting white middle-class compassion proudly centre-stage. A half-truth, a half-story, surely?