Title – Stronger (2017)
Director – David Gordon Green (Our Brand is Crisis)
Cast – Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown, Richard Lane Jr.
Plot – The true story of Boston Bombing survivor Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) who lost both his legs in the terrorist attack but became a symbol for hope in the process.
“I’m a hero for just standing there and getting my legs blown off?”
Review by Eddie on 16/05/2018
Based on the true story of Boston Marathon Bombing survivor and unwitting hero of the time Jeff Bauman, David Gordon Green’s Stronger is a low-key and rough around the edges portrait of an everyday man thrust into an out of the ordinary and life changing situation, that allows Jake Gyllenhaal yet another chance to showcase his considerable acting chops.
Taking a break or moving on from such projects as Vice Principals and Red Oaks, Gordon Green returns to his more indie focussed and character driven roots to dive into the story of Bauman, a flawed yet likeable Bostonian who is far from your typical trial against adversity like figure.
Losing both his legs in the terrorist attack that shocked the world and shook the very foundations of Boston’s proud and passionate citizens, Bauman allows Gyllenhaal a chance to inhabit a man whose not only looking to come to grips with his new way of life, but a man looking to make right on his relationship with on and off girlfriend (played well by Orphan Black superstar Tatiana Maslany) and learn to be the best man he can be for her.
Stronger is far from what you usually get from these type of true-life inspirational stories, as is to be expected from a filmmaker like Green, and while during its later stages it becomes something more of the usual, for most of the film Green seems more concerned to showcase Bauman’s dealings with his proud baseball loving family led by Bauman’s Oprah loving mother Patty, played by an almost unrecognisable Miranda Richardson.
It’s an interesting tactic by Green but sadly this means we never truly get the insight and background to Bauman that would’ve made Stronger a more emotionally powerful and engaging film and while Green certainly embodies his tale with some raw and genuinely moving portraits of a grief, trauma and personal pain (a scene where Bauman begins to remember the moment the terror attack took place is one of the most haunting in recent memory), there’s a lingering sense that Stronger fails to make the lasting impact it could’ve easily made had the balance been right.
Final Say –
With Gyllenhaal leading from the front with another convincing and commendable turn, Stronger remains ever watchable and often intimately real but there’s an inescapable feeling here that Gordon Green has let an awards worthy turn be squandered on a film that doesn’t quite match its leading man.
3 swing sets out of 5