Didn’t we already have a movie about the Boston Bombing? Patriots Day came out in 2016 and it told the story of how the police tracked down the bombers following the devastating event. Patriots Day was undeniably great. Stronger is a completely different movie; It doesn’t focus on the bombing itself, instead on Jeff Bauman, one of the survivors from the explosion near the finish line who later became a symbol of hope for Boston. This is a more personal story, and I have to say it is a very human film and one of the better movies of 2017.
Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
This movie is driven solely by the performances from the main characters. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a powerful performance as Jeff Bauman, commanding each scene he is in. How the hell does this guy not have an Oscar? He is truly one of the best actors working today, and he proves it yet again with this riveting role. I really hope he doesn’t get snubbed by the Academy like he did in 2014 for Nightcrawler. Tatiana Maslany plays Erin, Jeff’s on and off girlfriend. I have never seen her in anything before this, but she turned in a strong performance as well. The chemistry between Erin and Jeff is authentic and moving.
It wasn’t just their chemistry that felt authentic in Stronger; The entire family and setting was believable and authentic. The world has this perception of Boston natives being blunt assholes, and director David Gordon Green does a great job crafting Jeff’s family to be that exactly. They are definitely loyal to each other, but some of the dialogue is real and even mean, and this works better than being cheesy or over the top. Stronger focuses more on Jeff struggling with the little things instead of overcoming massive obstacles, and that’s what makes it great. The writing and chemistry being genuine helps Stronger transcend the typical biopic clichés that so many movies are littered with.
Stronger does a great job shedding light on how something as traumatic as losing your legs affects everyone in your life. Your loved ones literally have to alter their lives when something devastating like this happens. Erin deals with a substantial amount of the struggles like helping him get into the bath tub and motivating him to go to rehab. Jeff is pretty much a lovable screw-up, so the viewer feels sympathy for him even when he is making awful decisions. Truthfully, he is a 28 year-old baby, and Erin only wants what is best for him. His family does too, but his mother Patty (Miranda Richardson) is more interested in getting him interviews with talk show hosts. Stronger does a good job of demonstrating the different intentions from the characters closest to Jeff, and how they ultimately all mean well but they don’t realize how Jeff perceives it.
The CGI of Jeff missing his legs was very impressive. It really blows me away just how well the visual effects teams nowadays can make something like this look. Other than that, there isn’t anything technically incredible about Stronger. It’s not bad, but the cinematography and score are pretty standard. This is a character-driven film and I’m glad it stuck to that instead of trying to execute complex camera moves.
Stronger is one of those movies that you only want to watch one, but you absolutely need to see. Everyone should know Jeff Bauman’s story and the struggles he had. Stronger is a marvelous tribute to his life, but it is also a forthright demonstration of how this event affects your loved ones. I teared up a few times, so if you go see it in theaters it might be smart to bring some tissues.