'Stronger' is an Uplifting Tearjerker

Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal in  Stronger

Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger

Now, I’ve got a movie review on the inspirational biopic Stronger, but first, a bit of history on the film’s subject matter: the Boston Marathon Bombings. 

Roughly four years ago, two bombs were set off at the Boston Marathon, leaving many runners and attendees badly injured–Stronger subject, Jeff Bauman, among them.  He was merely waiting at the finish line for his on again off again girlfriend, Erin Hurley, to show up until one of the bombs took both his legs, not to mention his homemade “Run Erin” poster. Unintentionally, Bauman would become a symbol of resistance for the American people, constantly being told to stay “Boston Strong.”  

Based off Jeff Bauman’s true story, David Gordon Green’s Stronger reveals the mental and physical hardships Jeff Baumann (Jake Gyllenhaal) undergoes to overcome this unexpected upheaval.  Erin (Tatiana Maslany) and Jeff’s mother Patty (Miranda Richardson) follow him on his journey to recovery where they experience and deal with their own emotional pain. Throughout the film, Jeff longs to understand how he earned the title “hero,” when to him, he was only one of the many victims of the attack.  The director chooses to use flashbacks of the marathon to amplify Jeff’s PTSD as well as slowly reveal the moment of him waking up in the midst of the marathon.  This kept me avidly watching, as I waited for the film to reach the turning point. 

On opening night, my friend and I splurged, and spent thirteen dollars each to see the movie.  I don’t know if she would admit to this, but I will: I solely went to see Jake Gyllenhaal.  Ten minutes in, I started to cry, and by the end of the film, I forgot what it was like to be tearless. I was surprised to connect that deeply, but the performances begged the audience to witness their tragedy.  Although I wished the film developed Erin and Jeff’s relationship a bit more before the bombing, this only added to the guilt she felt when he showed up to see her.  The strength of their relationship saved the film from another Hollywood maudlin love story.  Unlike the typical female supporting role under her circumstances,  Erin sets limits to her boyfriend’s nihilistic, selfish behavior, which is what makes this film so relatable.

I would recommend this film to anyone who, like me, is in love with Jake Gyllenhaal, and/or is looking for an uplifting, yet emotionally catastrophic, true story that brings attention to a victim of trauma.