Stronger Review - Inspirational, Emotional, A Solid Bio-Pic

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Stronger, from Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate, presents the story of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the Boston Marathon Bombing and the aftermath of his recovery, challenges, hopes, his family, and how he went from ordinary to extraordinary.

Directed by David Gordon Green, Stronger stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Miranda Richardson, Tatiana Maslany, Richard Lane Jr., Nate Richman, Lenny Clarke, Patty O'Neil, Kate Fitzgerald, Danny McCarthy and Carlos Sanz. Stronger was written by Jeff Pollono based on the book of the same name written by Jeff Bauman.

Stronger opens at Costco, where Jeff, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is being humorously reprimanded by his supervisor, Kevin, played by Danny McCarthy, and it is obvious he has a good relationship at his job. Heading over to the Pub, he meets up with his family and friends when his former girlfriend, Erin, played by Tatiana Maslany comes in with her sister, Gail, played by Frankie Shaw.


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She is collecting money for the 117th annual Boston Marathon. Of course, as Jeff is still in love with her, they broken up six times before, okay so maybe three, and they always get back together, he decides to take over and announces what she needs and soon the patrons (all his family or extended family or friends of his family; it's a family bar) fill the jar and she is one her way with him following as he is hoping to score at least a dinner.

She told him, the reason we broke up is that "You're never there." You say you'll be there and you don't show. So he decides tomorrow, at the finish line, he is going to make this huge sign, with 3-D letters, in neon orange, and this time he be there.

His mother, Patty, played by an unrecognizable Miranda Richardson,  explains he should just be done with that girl.

So off he goes and as he positions himself near the finish line, he is jostled by a stranger in sunglasses, who walks in front of him, and the audience just sees the backpack, and then as Jeff turns, to look at him, an image that will soon be seen around the world.

Within seconds chaos strikes, Erin who is nearing the finish line sees the explosions and makes it to safety. She is watching the news when a flash of Jeff is shown.

What follows is what most survivors experienced. The shrapnel bombs, filled with nails, screws and bb's torn through the flesh of the bystanders obliterating limbs with an intensity usually reserved for war. Today, Bostonians and the world, found out the United States was at war and we just didn't know it.

Stronger doesn't hold back at this stage, as Jeff has lost both legs, a double amputee, his family, a middle class, family, that loves the Red Sox, drinks a little too much, has very few coping skills, and no crisis management experience. Life was pretty steady, even before the Marathon for them, ups and downs, the struggles of the middle class.

On that day it all changed. His family, all of them, showed up at the hospital. The room was an eruption of panic, uncertainty, shock, as they all crowded into the family space provided by the hospital. Jeff's supervisor from Costco showed up with a basket of food and paperwork.

Jeff's father, played by Clancy Brown, known as Big Jeff, with a booming, amplified, voice was trying to figure out the future, when Kevin walks in to the barrage of who will hire him with no legs? Is Costco going to re-hire Jeff?"

Jeff finally wakes up and is sitting with Sully, played by Nate Richman, when he asks for a pen and writes "I saw the Bomber." From that point on he is heralded by newspapers and media, as a hero. He becomes the symbol of Boston Strong. The strong part somehow eluded him, for a season, and the trauma was taking its toll.

Six weeks later he is released from the hospital and the real challenges of life, and the intimacies of daily living as an amputee become in your face real. The next scenes are filled with grueling challenges that Jeff and his family face as he attempts to adjust to the new normal.  

Stronger is an emotional film. It is an uplifting true story of one man, among many, who faces, and really in those situation you have one two choices, the obstacle head on. Bauman decides to face the rehab part of the process. The emotional part, as it was left over from his pre-amputee days is now magnified and a little more difficult to face.


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Dr. Jeffrey Kalish from the hospital was cast to present an authenticity which adds to the scope of the damage.

I walked away thinking Jake Gyllenhaal is an incredibly talented actor. Sometimes I don't think he gets his due, and this performance is a solid as they come. Bauman jokes about Lt. Dan when he first wakes. Gyllenhaal handles the challenges of the role solidly. Obviously, he is not an amputee and there are no hiccups in the performance to show any type of leaning on lower body strength. He did really well.

Miranda Richardson is unrecognizable as the chain smoking, drinking, nearly suicidal, Patty Bauman. She doesn't lose her Bostonian accent and she made the physical adjustments to capture the woman who really was instrumental in keeping the world going.

Everyone was there, the entire family, and Costco, I walked away with a newfound respect for the retail consumer giant who did the right thing, stayed with the employee, had a family mental health plan in place and had it ready to go within hours of the news.

Stronger is one of those films that could be dismissed as just another tragedy to triumph story and it is so much more than as the film layers the past relationships with Erin that remained.

This was someone, and I've heard other survivors talk, about the city being there for them, who was held up by the people around him until he could stand on two legs again.

Stronger opens in theaters September 22, 2017. It is a must see. Genuine, human, real, triumphant.

 

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