Thursday, October 12, 2017

Movie with Abe: Stronger

Directed by David Gordon Green
Released September 29, 2017

Dramatizing traumatic events is never an easy task, and it’s one that requires extreme sensitivity. The closer it is to when it occurred, the more it will still be in the public memory, making seeing it happen on screen potentially painful and triggering. Treating a subject with respect and dignity, and an avoidance of gratuitous showboating, are paramount qualities to making a successful depiction of recent history that can function as both a fitting testament to the real people and a worthwhile cinematic product in its own right.

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing has already been made into a movie, last year’s “Patriots Day,” which this reviewer didn’t see. This film focuses not on the manhunt for the perpetrators of the bombing but instead on one of its survivors, Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who lost both of his legs while holding a sign at the finish line waiting for his ex-girlfriend Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany). “Stronger” chronicles Bauman’s road to recovery as he reconciles with Erin and contends with a constant push by his mother Patty (Miranda Richardson) to inspire others with his story while grappling with the difficult road ahead and horrific memories of the bombing that still haunt him.

This movie wisely chooses not to make the bombing its central focus, featuring it initially as perceived by Erin in the distance. Instead, it’s Bauman, his extended family, and his struggle to understand the meaning of the term “Boston Strong” that drive this film. Prior to losing his legs, Bauman was a very likeable but unreliable Costco employee, and seeing him cast into a role he was never prepared for is quite the powerful journey. This feels like a topic worth making a movie about, a story that deserves to be told and works quite well on screen.

Gyllenhaal may well earn his second Oscar nomination for his extremely effective performance as the affable Bauman, who upon waking up following his amputations, demonstrates his sense of humor by writing “Lieutenant Dan” on a piece of paper. Gyllenhaal puts all of himself into this performance, and he’s matched well by Maslany, beginning what’s sure to be a superb post-“Orphan Black” career. Richardson and Clancy Brown, as Bauman’s father, contribute well, as does the entire ensemble. This is an emotional, affecting film that paints a powerful picture of one man who was transformed by one irreversible event that came to define the city that showed its resilience in the aftermath.


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