Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring an effective Jake Gyllenhaal in the main role, “Stronger” is a taut and heavily dramatic biographical account about the misfortune that hit Jeff Bauman, a Costco employee, who lost both legs during the 2013 terrorist bombing attack perpetrated during the crowded Boston marathon.
Jeff inspired many people with his towering courage and might have become a symbol of the Boston Strong movement, but his adaptation to his new reality was anything but smooth.
After making up with Erin (Tatiana Maslany) for the third time in their on-and-off relationship, Jeff seemed to regain some independence despite sporadic post-traumatic stress disorder manifestations he is forced to control on his own. He set about post-surgery rehabilitation and finds strength in the total availability of Erin, who abandoned her job and agreed to move in with him and his mom. However, Jeff’s alcoholic mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson), can be a nuisance sometimes and her recalcitrant personality often clashes with the benevolent Erin.
Slowly yet unmistakably, Jeff slides into a depressive, self-destructive state where he simply gives up his recovery to fall into the dangerous abyss of alcohol and despair. Fortunately, the encounter with the good man who saved him, Carlos (Carlos Sanz), will bring him back not only the hope he needs but also the self-respect and responsibility that enable an appropriate life, both lived as an individual and family member.
The resourceful cast does a pretty decent job under the direction of the once-promising director David Gordon Green (“George Washington”, “Prince Avalanche”, “Joe”), who discontinued the attractive indie style that had marked the beginning of his filmmaking career to embrace supplementary standardized forms and structures. Naturally, it was Bauman’s memoir that served as the inspiration for the first-time playwright John Pollono, who passed the difficult test of assembling a capable storytelling.
This re-creation of the events weighs with emotion and humanity, but there’s no stroke of genius here. Even with a fluctuating approach that sometimes tends to rudimentary, Green sustains sufficient levels of honesty throughout to make us follow our hero with interest until the final credits start to roll. Indeed, he was particularly successful in the way he conjured the finale and staged the family dynamics with an aching authenticity.