posted 27 Apr 2018, 05:57 by Paul Woodward

Genre: Drama / Biopic

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal / Tatiana Maslany / Miranda Richardson /

Director: David Gordon Green

Certificate: 15

Run Time: 1hr 59 mins

Year: 2017

A true story film based on the book by Jeff Bauman who lost both his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. The film follows his life following the loss of his legs and how it affected him and those around him.

This is a real good film, which is well acted by the main cast who fully immerse themselves in the characteristics of their real-life counterparts. Hollywood has a bad habit of making flawless heroes in films based on real life people who have faced adversity. Normally with people suddenly becoming inspirational, determined and with a radically changed persona following their tragedy. Which isn’t realistic and the first thing I noticed about this film was Bauman is still the same person, same humour, same approach to life he’s just dealing with a change in his physicality and its limitations. But he’s not suddenly a hero, in fact that is something the film touches on a lot with Bauman been suddenly lifted to ‘Hero’ status following the bombings and been held as ‘Boston Strong’ by a fervent nation. Bauman doesn’t understand why and struggles with the attention and the status the public bestow on him. He does learn to accept that he is a symbol and an inspiration even if that is more about a feeling other’s feel about him rather than direct inspiration from his actions.

It’s sensitive and at times heart wrenching but is a very realistic and depiction of Bauman’s life and never falls into the sugar coated or overly saccharine trappings of mainstream movies. Bauman comes across as a slacker, with a strong sense of humour which helps him deal with his disability and it’s not his battle against adversity that makes him a better man, it’s his love for his very understating on/off girlfriend Erin that inspires him, not to improve, but grow up. It’s a really interesting film which highlights the downside to becoming a nation’s figurehead and how different people treat you – including a bar fight which breaks out after a couple of blokes claim the bombings were a false flag and he was an actor paid to have his legs amputated!

It touches on how Bauman deals with his PTSD, which he hides and masks with humour but in a few scenes, you can see how deeply traumatised he is and his determination to not let the outside world see it.

Gyllenhaal performs well and creates a likeable but flawed human being and comes across very naturally. This film belongs to the incredible Maslany though – their will be an Oscar in her future with the right role and film. Here she plays Bauman’s girlfriend with a raw honesty and delivers a very emotive performance. Her character’s reactions and devotion to Bauman are truly beautiful and it’s great to see the film see him finally give back as much as she gives him. Normally in films based on this type of subject matter, it sees women running for the hills and not been able to cope with a disabled partner. In fact, Erin is presented as a truly understanding and caring person, who sees the man not his physical limitations. In fact, they weren’t together at the time of the bombings having an on/off relationship at the time, so it would have been easy for her to not continue her relationship with him following the bombings and deal with all that it entailed. Maslany was perfectly cast, I can’t praise this actress enough!

The special effects used to show Gyllenhaal without legs are flawless, if you didn’t know the actor you would be fooled into believing he had no legs. How Gyllenhaal moves and deals with life is very accurate and even with prosthetic legs he walks in a believable manner, so kudos to Gyllenhaal who obviously spent time with amputees to deliver a respectful and believable depiction of someone with those specific disabilities.

It may not be a warm and fuzzy film, but it is an intriguing drama about real life and humanity. ‘Stronger’ is a film which won’t be seen by as many people as it truly deserves but will be appreciated by those who do give it their time!


Review by Woody