American films

Film review: Stronger – Jake Gyllenhaal plays Boston Marathon bombing survivor in fact-based human drama

Told in a straightforward, necessarily grim, manner, that starts with the atrocity and moves forward chronologically from there, it depicts blast victim Jeff Bauman’s recovery without glossing over the many problems he faced

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 6:03pm

3.5/5 stars

This down-to-earth tale about the struggles a man endures after losing both his legs in the 2013 Boston marathon bombing resists sentimentality right until the final scenes. It’s a tough-talking film which aims to depict his recovery without glossing over the problems he faced with too many epiphanies.

Instead, Stronger presents the story in a very straightforward, necessarily grim, manner that is enlivened by a trio of top-notch performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Miranda Richardson and Tatiana Maslany. It starts with the bombing and moves forward chronologically from there.

Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) goes to the marathon to cheer on his ex-girlfriend Erin (Maslany) and loses his legs when the bomb goes off. With the help of his family, headed by mother Patty (Richardson), he starts to get his life back. But he is unwillingly forced to become a symbol of the Boston Strong movement that appeared as a reaction to the bombing, and must accept the celebrity status that comes with it.

Film review: Patriots Day – Mark Wahlberg’s story of 2013 Boston marathon bombings

The film works because the characters act like real people rather than movie ciphers. They swear – a lot – and cheer when a terrorist is killed, rather than show forgiveness. They care for Jeff, but still manage to get caught up in the excitement of his celebrity activities themselves.

The core of the film is Jeff’s rejection of his heroic image – he feels that he is more of a lucky survivor than a deserving hero. But the realism is finally swamped by some unwelcome Hollywood melodrama when Jeff accepts the messianic status that has been thrust upon him.

Stronger opens on December 28

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook