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Stronger packs a powerful punch, but missed a vital opportunity

David Gordon Green’s Boston bombing biopic is still undoubtedly mesmerizing
Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany
Photo: Lionsgate

‘Stronger’

Director: David Gordon Green

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson

Rating: R

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4.5 (Out Of 5) Globes

Plot: Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is hell bent on reuniting with his ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Bauman attempts to win her back and prove he’s a new man by making a sign and promising to meet her at the finish line of the Boston marathon on Monday April 15, 2013. A terrorist attack, though, results in Bauman losing his legs, and Erin immediately rushes to Jeff’s side. However, even though they rekindle their romance, Jeff struggles with his recovery, while his mother repeatedly interferes, too. Despite all these obstacles, Jeff vows that he will still one day walk again, though.  

You can only judge a film by what it puts in front of you. So with that in mind Stronger the movie is superb. It’s emotional, funny, dramatic, insightful, and doesn’t hold back in its intimate and brutal depiction of Bauman, handling his PTSD and the impact of the bombing and his amputation in an increasingly mesmerizing fashion. Director David Gordon Green keeps it close and simple, giving his performers the space to lull viewers into the plight of the characters, while occasionally using cinematic flashes to take you back to the immediate aftermath of the bombing and highlight Bauman’s toil. It is the subtle, deeply affecting performances of Gyllenhaal and Maslany that really grab ahold of you, though. But herein lies my issue with “Stronger.” While Gyllenhaal is undoubtedly impressive in the leading role, I couldn’t help but feel as though a double amputee actor could have added extra depth and detail. At times I found myself being more impressed that the film had managed to crop out Gyllenhaal’s legs rather than being transfixed by the layers and richness of his performance. “Stronger” still packs a powerful punch, but if had taken a risk and gone with a less renowned actor that had the same condition, it could have been even more resonant.