Stronger directed by David Gordon Green is the second film to come out since 2013 concerning the Boston Marathon Bombings that rocked the city. Peter Berg's Patriots Day was a film with an emphasis on the event and manhunt shown through many different perspectives of the attacks. Stronger takes a different route focusing on the life of a single victim named Jeff Bauman played by Jake Gyllenhaal who lost both of his legs that tragic day in April. The bombing is vital to the story, but Stronger puts the event itself on the back burner to tell a human tale of suffering through the worst day of your life and trying to gain some normalcy again in the days that follow.
There is no reason to go any further in this review without addressing the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal. The Academy Award nominee is outstanding in Stronger as the regular Boston guy who suffers a terrible injury from the blast and becomes a beacon of hope for the city. Gyllenhaal's work is not over the top or sappy, but more subtle as you see the look of fear and despair on his face. The audience is able to get a look inside of this regular Joe turned hero in the public's eye by surviving only to live a life full of many challenges. Jeff Buaman is depicted as a guy with some issues leading into tragedy, which are compounded even more once the real struggle begins. Stronger is a film that will make you feel pity for these victims who are thrown into the spotlight for public relations reasons and much of that has to do with the raw and emotional acting from Gyllenhaal who delivers some of the best work of his career.
Jake Gyllenhaal is not the only one who shines in this character study about survival and adapting to an unwelcome new life. Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany shines in this biopic as Bauman's on again/off again girlfriend Erin who tries to help Jeff manage this rough situation while still dealing with old habits that were present in his life way before the accident. She's the one character with real guilt in Stronger, but you could easily relate to some of her reactions towards Jeff and his blue-collar Boston family. The almost unrecognizable Miranda Richardson also does solid work as Jeff's drunk mother Patty who seems to love the attention her son receives in the wake of the attacks. Richardson's Boston Matriarch is a very believable character due to her ability to make you cringe with her selfish thought process and lack of concern for her son.
Director David Gordon Green presents a different side of the survivor's story that is not always as positive as the media would lead us to believe through public appearances and interviews following a national tragedy. Stronger presents a general public who yearns to feel better by seeing victims smiling and looking strong after going through an event that scarred them both mentally and physically. The movie also shows how the attention can be intoxicating for some people (especially family members) surrounding survivors who begin to ignore the signs of emotional damage plaguing the person standing in the spotlight. All this raw content and strong acting from the cast make this an important film to watch. Jake Gyllenhaal may not win an Oscar for this film, but Stronger shows why he will take home a little gold statue one day.
Overall, I give Stronger 3.25 out of 4 stars.
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