If you watch one true story drama this year, check out Stronger, a compelling and heartfelt movie. The film grabs you from the very start with its story involving the tragedy, heroism, and determination of a man and a woman dealing with a difficult recovery from traumatic circumstances. When you go to see the film, and you should, bring some tissues as it pulls at your heartstrings with messages of love, courage and family.
It’s April of 2013 and Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), an ordinary guy who loves life and family, works hard at Cosco and has his ups and downs with his girlfriend Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany). Erin wants to be with Jeff, but she has broken off with him a couple of times for being late to a date or not arriving at all.
On this one occasion Jeff sees Erin at their hangout bar raising funds for charity. Being the kind of guy who can’t stay away from the girl he loves, he tells her he will be waiting at the finish line for her at the Boston Marathon, a challenge for which she has been training.
Thus begins a horrific ordeal when Jeff is at the wrong place at the wrong time and he gets both legs blown apart by the Boston Marathon bomber’s explosion. Director David Gordon Green opens his film with a short introduction to Jeff’s life with his family and girlfriend before delivering the blow that fuels the rest of the movie. He then shows another side to the family as they bicker about the tragedy that brings them all together. A proud family they want Jeff to be known for his heroism at the scene and act of selflessness.
Jake Gyllenhaal becomes Jeff Bauman showing his weaknesses when it comes to romantic relationships. After the bombing we find a man who’s more interested in helping the FBI find the killer he saw at the scene than the fact he has lost his legs. He goes on to inspire others to face their worst tests that life throws at them, but deep down inside he’s dealing with his own. Gyllenhaal certainly deserves recognition and hopefully he will see it at awards time.
Turning her character Erin into a woman possessed with helping the man she doubted, Tatiana Maslany gives a powerful performance. She has to show Erin rekindling her love for Jeff without being just another sympathizer, and she nails it. Knowing it’s going to be a long road to recovery, Erin presses herself to work with Jeff. But, she’s in the midst of a family in shock that can’t come to grips with the terrible situation.
Speaking of family, Miranda Richardson as Jeff’s mom Patty Bauman should be a shoe in for a spot on the best supporting actress list. She show’s Patty’s fears when told of her son Jeff being a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. When she finds out that Jeff has escaped death, but lost his legs, she turns into a woman possessed. She, along with her crazed husband, depict the extreme side of protectiveness of family.
Stronger has been rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity. The horrible scene at the Marathon gets very grueling and ugly, but the effect becomes a lasting reminder for the heinous act by the deranged bomber.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A not to be missed film for those who like true stories that are captivating and convincing. (5 out of 5 stars)
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown, Lenny Clark, Carlos Sans.
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: John Pollono
Based on the book “Stronger” by: Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter
Genre: Drama, Biography
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.
Release Date: 9-22-17
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions
The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.