In moments of tragedy, the world looks for a symbol to give it hope. Over the years people have turned ordinary folks into fixtures of strength to draw upon. From the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima to the first responders on Sept. 11, 2001, these average Joes became the pillar people put their faith in.
The new film “Stronger” shows the journey taken by Boston Marathon Bombing survivor Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he works to recover from his injuries and the daily struggle he has with this new identity that is thrust upon him.
Bauman is your typical guy working to find his place in life. He has good friends, a steady job, loves sports, but struggles with romantic relationships with women. In a way to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend, he goes to the Boston Marathon and waits near the finish line.
His life then changes in a second as a bomb explodes wounding him. Doctors are able to save his life but Bauman looses both legs. He is now faced with a future that is riddled with uncertainty and doubt.
Filmmakers present Bauman’s story as raw as possible. This gives an intimate look at how Bauman comes to grasp with his reality as he works to find normalcy again. Points in the film show him coping with his disability through alcohol or just by not dealing with the situation at all. Then when reality comes back into the picture the memories are too painful and he lashes out.
A scene that shows this is when he is confronted by his girlfriend, Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany), in the parking lot of their apartment complex about how disconnected he has become from the world. Hurley says that Bauman needs to take his therapy seriously stating, “You just need to show up.”
Bauman’s resentment and bitterness of his situation then surface in that moment. He yells at her saying, “Show up? I showed up for you.”
The movie also has several personal moments pull at the heartstrings a little bit more. A scene that demonstrates this is when Bauman meets the man that saved his life, Carlos Arredondo (Carlos Sanz). Arredondo tells Bauman about the sons he lost earlier in his life and how he helped to find a piece of his life that was gone. Arredondo says to Bauman, “You remind me of my son. He died. Helping you made me feel like I could help my son, and for that I am grateful.”
This is an extraordinary film, and it is not to be missed. Bauman’s story is one that needs to shared and remembered. The only drawback to this movie is that it was released in select theaters. Two theaters that are showing “Stronger” locally are the Angelika Film Center located at 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas and at the AMC theater at the Parks Mall in Arlington located off of Interstate Highway 20. If you do make the drive you will be well rewarded.
I give “Stronger” five out of five mustaches.
It is rated R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality and nudity. The movie runs 116 minutes.