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Film/TV Stronger

Published on December 8th, 2017 | by voxx



Out: 8 December
Cert: 15
Length: 119 minutes
Rating: 4/5

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown

Plot: Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) loses both of his legs after a bomb explosion on April 15 2013. With unwavering support from his family and girlfriend (Maslany), he embarks on a long and heroic journey to emotional and physical rehabilitation.

The theme “strength” has taken centre stage in many images of pop culture in 2017. It’s become one of the many defending features in ‘Game of Thrones’, specifically among its female participants; in this summer’s ‘Dunkirk’ it was the strength of civilians to rescue 400,000 men from a plethora of German bombers. Or you can go back as far as February to Peter Berg’s ‘Patriots Day’, when the mantra “Boston Strong” was the film’s crowning moment after a terrorist attack. With that same tactic, ‘Stronger’ takes centre stage, running by the tagline “What doesn’t kill you, makes you…” – you know the rest. It’s a theme that’s currently fitting around a time of emotional trauma and tragedy.

Like ‘Patriots Day’, the film centers on the same subject: the Boston marathon bombing of 2013. We open with Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal), an employee at Costco who does his best to impress his girlfriend, Erin (Orphan Black’s Maslany) by turning up to events on time. Suddenly, he’s hospitalised after an explosion and when he becomes conscious he finds out the worst possible thing has happened to him; he’s lost his legs. With unwavering support from his loving family, his girlfriend and the people around him seeing him as a heroic figure, he embarks on a long journey to emotional and physical rehabilitation. Though the film doesn’t explore the concept of strength as flawlessly enthralling as ‘Thrones’, or as grippingly visceral as the layered narrative of ‘Dunkirk’, Director David Gordon Green does his best to make it as tough, tense and as breathtakingly emotional as possible thanks to an outstanding awards-worthy performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, who keeps it at ground level inspiration – one that’s truly admiring.

The scope of Green is at the level of Berg. He pays vivid attention to the detail at hand from the source material provided by in the real life self-titled memoirs, from the trauma that constantly torments him, through the “Boston Strong” banners and to the symbolism of hope he gives the people of the city. Of course you have to credit Gyllenhaal’s performance as he helps bring the film to life. His transformation is excellent throughout the emotional torture he goes through during the rigorous exercises to help him walk again. Indeed, the film is filled with warmth and humanity, but it certainly doesn’t sugar-coat the reality that’s on show here, as Green isn’t afraid to introduce images of PTSD through sensational flashbacks of that day. The pain Jeff goes through is truly unforgettable.

‘Stronger’ is a tough and tense look into the heroics of one survivor of a traumatic time. For some this might seem underplayed, but it keeps things small and grounded, and it’s certainly one that somehow feels much bigger, and defiantly stronger.

VERDICT: Gyllenhaal gives an outstanding performance in a film that’s often tough and hard bearing to the events on hand, yet it’s one that’s also warm and unforgettable.

- By Corey Denford

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