Mark Reviews Movies



3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown, Carlos Sanz, Richard Lane Jr., Nate Richman, Lenny Clarke, Patricia O'Neil, Katherine Fitzgerald, Danny McCarthy, Frankie Shaw

MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity)

Running Time: 1:56

Release Date: 9/22/17

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | September 21, 2017

In telling the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs above the knees after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Stronger gets something vital right: A sudden disability doesn't necessarily change the character or personality of a person. Jeff, who's played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the film, was always late, perpetually unreliable, and something of a general screw-up before his injury, and once he's out of the hospital and as close to back to his old routines as possible, he remains that way. The screenplay, written by John Pollono (adapting Bauman's book, which was written with Bret Witter), doesn't pity Jeff because he lost his legs. If the film does pity him, it's because he can't get his life in order—with or without his lower limbs. What resonates the most here is not the inspirational path of Jeff overcoming his physical limitations and psychological barriers, although it certainly is inspiring.

No, the touching parts come from acts of decency, whether it's Jeff's boss arriving with a basket for the survivor's family, the reason the man who saved him after the attack did so, and the entirety of the character of Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who was his ex-girlfriend before the bombing and decides to alter her life to help him in his recovery—partly out of guilt (He was at the finish line to cheer for her) but mostly because it's the right thing to do. The film could have been done with plenty of sentimentality, but director David Gordon Green would rather work in a low-key way. Even the film's big moment isn't a huge event. It's a private moment, to which only two people are really paying attention. The moment says much more—in the subtle struggle to do something ordinary and the quiet looks from the characters who matter—than any cheering crowd or swelling score could say.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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