Back in the summer of 2013, one man in Boston captured the hearts of millions and inspired many to believe that anything can be possible. Jeff Bauman was just an average man in Boston who worked at Costco and spent time with his many friends and eccentric family. Jeff was recently dumped by his girlfriend Erin and in an attempt to impress her and win her back he attended the 2013 Boston Marathon to cheer her on at the finish line. What transpired that day lead to one of the most horrific events Boston has ever endured. Jeff Bauman was in the middle of one of the bombs going off and ended up losing his legs in the explosion. The city deemed him as hero and Bauman questioned the city as to why they viewed him as “Boston strong.” Jake Gyllenhaal plays the young man who is dealing with the loss of his legs while he depends on his mother and ex-girlfriend.
Stronger is a very emotional film that floored me on every level. In the beginning of the film we see Bauman as a larger than life character. He seems to be enjoying life despite living in an apartment with his mom and recently getting dumped by his ex-girlfriend. After Jeff suffers a tragedy, he realizes that he has lost everything that made him who he is. This film explores the personal mindset one goes through when suffering a tragedy in life and how the strength to overcome it is not always there right away. Stronger was a little depressing when it explored Jeff’s story and how he worked to overcome the loss of his legs.
Jake Gyllenhaal provides an Oscar-worthy performance as he balances a wide range of emotions, and his performance of a broken man was raw and authentic. Watching Gyllenhaal go from an upbeat Bostonian to a depressed man is a gripping transformation that made me quite emotional. Gyllenhaal is a fantastic actor and like Leonardo DiCaprio, he deserves an Oscar. Not to be overlooked is Tatiana Maslany who plays Jeff’s on and off again girlfriend, Erin. She is terrific in her role as a guilt-ridden outsider in Jeff’s family who is constantly willing to attend Jeff’s meetings despite Jeff’s mother not wanting her there. Also very Oscar-worthy is Miranda Richardson who plays Jeff’s mother, who at times can be viewed a bit selfish but ultimately her performance was stunning.
David Gordon Green captures Jeff’s life in a raw authentic light. He doesn’t hold back from anything which really captures the true nature of what Jeff had to endure after the horrific events in Boston. What Green also manages to do is reveal some truly horrifying scenes of Jeff at the end of the race and the bomb going off. Those moments came towards the end of the film and added another level of heartache for the viewers. Green doesn’t rely on those bloody shots throughout the film to add dramatic weight to the story. Instead Green gives the audience plenty of emotion through their words and facial expressions which I thought played far better than a typical biopic. Green captures the reality of what life is like afterwards for a victim of a tragedy. He doesn’t shy away from Jeff’s rehabilitation or his dysfunctional family. Some of the heart-wrenching moments in Stronger come while watching Jeff’s family trying to piggy back off Jeff’s loss of his legs to attend sports games and meet Oprah Winfrey.
Leaving the theater after Stronger, I felt inspired by watching this young man overcome his obstacles. It was satisfying seeing this young Bostonian man fulfill the role of hero that he had been forced into. The cast and crew came together and created a personal and impactful story of triumph and love. I could easily see this being a heavy hitter in the Oscars show next year.
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Stronger runs 1 hour 56 minutes and is rated R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity.