Jake Gyllenhaal gives “strong” performance in powerful new film


courtesy of IMDb

Trevor Tyle, Staff Reporter

It’s easy to forget a tragedy when it doesn’t happen to you. The world is plagued by catastrophic events everyday. But, unless they’re directly affected by it, chances are that people will comment about how sad it is and simply move on without giving it much more thought. It’s rare to find a tragedy that is worth remembering in people’s minds, but with David Gordon Green’s new film, “Stronger,” he does just that.

“Stronger” tells the true story of Jeff Bauman, one of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. After losing both legs in the incident, Bauman went on to recover and publish a memoir detailing his experience, which serves as the basis for the film.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Bauman in what could very well become a career-defining role for the 36-year-old actor. His portrayal is raw and moving, giving audiences a glimpse into the struggles that Bauman endured in his recovery process. While Gyllenhaal’s versatility as an actor is not exactly a new concept, this film is unlike anything he has ever done before. It us powerful, convincing and best of all, realistic.

Unlike several other inspirational dramas released in recent years, “Stronger” does not try to make Bauman a hero for the wrong reasons. While the film addresses his heroism as a survivor of a national hardship able to overcome his challenges, it never paints him to be a perfect person prior to, or after, the bombing. Bauman’s lack of self-control, inability to stand up to his overbearing family and occasional laziness emphasize the humanity within his character and ultimately make his story that much more resonant.

Even when given the opportunity, “Stronger” refuses to make Bauman’s situation a charity case, as does he. At one point in the film, he even refuses an interview with Oprah Winfrey for this exact reason. The film does not try to glamorize Bauman’s circumstances, but instead opts to focus on exactly what its title implies—Bauman’s strength.

Additionally, Gyllenhaal’s on-screen chemistry with Tatiana Maslany, who plays Bauman’s on-again off-again girlfriend Erin Hurley, is remarkable. Both actors offer captivating solitary performances, but the real magic is found in their scenes together, especially during a particularly poignant argument they have towards the film’s climax.

The film further details the imperfections of Bauman’s situation in Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of his drunken, enabling mother. Her character will evoke both sympathy and irritation from audience members, demonstrating the complexity of Bauman’s personal relationships, which make his condition even more difficult to cope with.

Overall, “Stronger” is a phenomenally well-crafted film. The acting is superb, the script is beautifully written and the story itself is both heartwarming and emotionally resonant. Its hero finds his own strength in his imperfections and uses the platform he has been given to inspire others as well, a task in which he beyond succeeds in. Despite occasionally graphic imagery, obscene language and heavy themes, Bauman’s story is one worth telling. “Stronger” will make audiences unapologetically cry and laugh, but even more importantly, it will make them remember.

If you go see one film this year, this should be it.

Rating: 5/5 stars