In theaters this week from director David Gordon Green and Roadside Attractions is the story of a journey that has the ability to make anyone “Stronger.”
Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) works at Costco and enjoys hanging out with his friends for a beer and baseball. When he sees ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) in the bar to raise money for her Boston Marathon run, Jeff can’t help but do what he can to show support. It is apparent he still has feelings for Erin and promises to be waiting at the finish line for her.
Erin doesn’t really believe he will show up since in their relationship she felt he never showed up when it was important. Determined to prove him wrong, Jeff is at the finishing line the next day with a big sign waiting for Erin.
That is when his world changes as a bomb goes off right next to where Jeff is standing. Immediately the city goes into rescue mode to help all those that are injured by both bombs. Jeff is taken to the hospital and his family is notified. Mom Patty (Miranda Richardson), Uncle Bob (Lenny Clarke), Aunt Jenn (Patty O’Neil), Big Jeff (Clancy Brown), Aunt Karen (Kate Fitzgerald) are all at the hospital with friends Sully (Richard Lane Jr.), Big D (Nate Richman) and Kevin (Danny McCarthy).
When Erin sees a photo of Jeff on the news helped by a man named Carlos (Carlos Sanz), she races to the hospital to be with him and be with the family. After surgery, Jeff eventually wakes with a revelation that puts the police on high alert and sets off an immediate manhunt.
Erin takes Jeff home from the hospital and that is when the real work begins. Wanting to renew his relationship with Erin, she moves in with Jeff and his mother Patty. The tension in thick and Jeff must find his way back to the life and love he always wanted.
But to do that Jeff must become stronger.
Gyllenhaal as Jeff has once again embraces a role that is powerful and physically demanding. Everything about Jeff Bauman comes from every pore of this actor. There are challenges that Gyllenhaal tackles and doesn’t shy away from in any way. That is what will bring the audience further into this emotional story. Time and time again Gyllenhaal proves he is an actor who chooses stories that deserve to be told and then stands back to let that story shine.
Maslany as Erin is stepping back onto the big screen as her television role in the BBC hit series “Orphan Black” has come to a close (trust me I’m not happy about that). She takes on this role and gives Erin warmth, understanding, guts and knowing that sometimes you have to step away to step forward.
Richardson as Patty is incredibly full of mouth, smoke, a few drinks too many and stunning. This is the mother who would drive us all crazy yet the same mother who we wouldn’t have any other way. Afraid to lose her son in more ways that just his legs, Richardson gives Patty a craziness that Mom’s everywhere can relate to. I better see her name on award nominations or else!
The small role that rises up big is that of actor Carlos Sanz. He plays Carlos Arredondo, the rescuer who helped Jeff immediately after the bombing. The scene between Carlos and Jeff when they meet is something to behold and yes, bring tissue.
Other cast include: Michelle Forziati as Jill Hurley, Sean McGuirk as Bill Hurley, Karen Scalia as Lori Hurley, Judith McIntyre as Michele Kerr, Cassandra Louis as Maya, and Jim LeBlanc as Larry.
“Stronger” brings amazing performances from actors that are worthy of the recognition. This is a difficult story to tell and each of the actors make it clear by their performances that the truth, not matter how harsh, can translate from page to screen.
That being said, the film of Jeff Bauman is based on the book “Stronger” that documented his recovery. Released in 2014, it was released one year after the anniversary of the bombing.
“Stronger” is a story of struggle, pain, belief, and horror all rolled into the lives of Boston. Jeff Bauman’s story gives the audience just one small glimpse of what happened that day in Boston at the finish line. It is also a cautionary tale of being celebrated as a hero and placed so high that the fall can be as devastating as the initial trauma.
This is one story out of the 264 people affected by the events that day; Gyllenhaal gives us a performance that makes seeing 263 more stories like this impossible to bear.
In the end — strength can define us!