Review: Stronger (2017) — A heartfelt true story of Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman

Stronger real jeff bauman vs movie jake gyllenhaal


Movie review

Directed by David Gordon Green (Our Brand is Crisis, Joe, Pineapple Express) and screenwritten by John Pollono (feature film debut), Stronger is based on the true life story of Jeff Bauman who was one of the survivors at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The tragic incident caused him to lose both his legs and made him a popular subject of the famous photograph taken at the bombing (inset photo above). The film depicts his struggles with PTSD, rehabilitation, unwanted public attention and his relationship with his girlfriend Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany) and mother Patty (Miranda Richardson).

While Patriot’s Day (2016) focuses on the manhunt for the culprits of the bombing, Stronger is a heartfelt drama that focuses on conveying the true pain, complications, strength and spirit of a survivor and a hero in the eyes of the public. There are poweful moments where I genuinely felt like shedding tears. The pacing at the beginning may feel a little too rushed. There may be a couple of oddly placed humour (although it may be intentional to show the behaviour of characters). There’s also a scene that seems be a dedicated brand placement for Costco. But as the film goes on with a better pacing and engaging narratives, it’s easy to look past these flaws.

Tatiana Maslany jake gyllenhaal stronger movie still

The performances of the main cast are fantastic. Never once they made me feel like they’re acting. Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw, Nightcrawler, Brokeback Mountain) once again proves that he is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood today, providing the depth, complexity and emotional range that’s required to portray Bauman who goes through agony, confusion and deteriorating self-worth while trying to maintain his cool and sense of humour on the outside. Tatiana Maslany’s (Orphan Black TV series, Two Lovers and a Bear) performance as the more mature but guilt-stricken and frustrated girlfriend is as great as Miranda Richardson’s (Churchill, Tom & Viv) as the alcoholic, loud-mouthed but caring mother who does what she thinks it’s best. As dysfunctional and insensitive as his family and friends are portrayed in the film, it’s amazing that their love and support for Bauman can still be felt.

Stronger is certainly is not your typical war hero or comeback story. It’s an honest, fact-based journey of an ordinary young man who has to overcome more than just losing his limbs while having to reluctantly deal with all the attention, hype and pressure of being a national hero, something which he has to try to understand as he sees himself as merely a victim on a wheelchair who was saved and supported by many others. The payoff and resolution at the end are straightforward but subtly triumphant. Stronger may not be Oscar-Best Film material but it is effectively poignant and genuinely inspiring while conveying all that it intends to.

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What I would’ve named the film: “Fans of Red Socks” or “Costco: The Best Employer”

Malaysian censorship: Only a sex scene is obvious cut. There are plenty of F-bombs but they’re all not muted. The highly graphic moments at the bombing are left intact as well.

Verdict: One strong fact-based drama that’s effectively emotional and genuinely inspiring.

Rating: 4 / 5

stronger movie movie poster malaysia keyartBased on: Jeff Bauman’s memoir “Stronger”

Genre: Biographical drama
Running Time: 119 minutes
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenwriter: John Pollono
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson

Malaysia Release Date: 28 September 2017
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Bold Films, Mandeville Films, Nine Stories Productions

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