Eye For Film >> Movies >> Stronger (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
When you get blown up and lose your legs what are you? A sad fuck.
No. You're a hero. Get used to it.
Jeff Bauman's story is for real. He wrote a book about it and now David Gordon Green has made a film about it.
Move over Douglas Bader we're going to Grotsville, Mass, on the wrong side of the tracks where disability doesn't feel heroic and stiff upper lip British public school bollocks has no meaning.
Jeff isn't a hero. He's an average-to-nothing worker (slacker) at Cosco and a Red Sox baseball fan. His girlfriend Erin keeps dumping him because he never does what he says and is always late. Also his family is a shouty bunch of chain smoking grunge grubs.
Jeff goes to the finishing line of the Boston marathon on April 15, 2013, because Erin is running and he's on probation from the latest bust up and wants to get back in there. When the bombs go off he's centre stage, slap bang in the middle of the mayhem. His legs are bloody rags. His mind slides from incredulity to bewilderment into misty scenes of mouths mid scream silenced by shock waves too intense to register.
He is saved by a Mexican who cuts off the flow with tourniquets and is rushed to hospital. Afterwards the press corps eats him up and spits him out as their designated local hero. He struggles with the concept of survival, finding prosthetics hard work and recovery painful, eventually living at home, attempting to remember what love is with Erin, sorry for himself and for this ruin of a life, angry and frustrated, hating the falsehood of fame that feels manufactured for the masses.
Out of this darkness does not come the resurrection of hope although it's there in the shades. The film has grit as if volcanic dust had scorched its rose tinted glasses. As the public face of the bombings Jeff feels embarrassed, a sham, and discovers some kind of meaning in despair, helped by the woman who's loyalty is scarred by past rejection.
Before you ask, why make a movie about one of the wounded from a terrorist attack on US soil, think cinema, think performance, think integrity.
With infinite subtlety Jake Gyllenhaal, as Jeff, leaves clues that uncover the truth of a man who cannot relate to other people's affection. Tatiana Maslany, as Erin, is equally strong. She comes from richer roots and yet has the intelligence and courage to follow her heart.
If prizes are on offer step up Miranda Richardson, English in blood and practice, who takes over the part of Jeff's overweight working class American mom like a duck to sewage. Actors suffer for their craft. In her creation of this essential role Richardson turns suffering into triumph.Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2017