The screenplay for this film, written by John Pollono, is adapted from the memoir “Stronger,” which was co-written by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. It has three AAW performances, which makes the movie worth seeing for the great acting alone, but it’s also an inspirational film about the human spirit and how much attachment to others matters. Furthermore, it’s very timely, considering what just happened in Las Vegas.
Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a chicken roaster at Costco who hasn’t yet grown up. He still lives with his alcoholic mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson). He has an on-again-off-again relationship with Erin (Tatiana Maslany). They are currently off, primarily because Jeff keeps disappointing her by not “showing-up.” In an effort to win her back, Jeff promises Erin to “show-up” and greet her at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Jeff then has the incredible bad luck of being very close to the bombs that went off. (And you thought you were having a bad day!) Although he wasn’t killed, both his legs were mutilated, and he needed bilateral above-the-knee amputations. At the hospital, Jeff tells Erin that he saw one of the bombers. Jeff is soon declared to be a hero, and becomes a symbol for Boston’s resolve not to let the terrorists win! (“Boston Strong”)
From Jeff’s side of the street, however, he doesn’t feel like a hero for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Understandably, he is overwhelmed, enraged and terrified about what has just happened to him and the formidable obstacles he faces to get back some semblance of a life. Erin feels very guilty because Jeff was only at the marathon for her. Jeff desperately needs Erin’s love and support to face the rigors of recovery, so they soon get back together again.
The movie explores Jeff’s “step-by-step” inspirational recovery, but what makes it special are the AAW performances by Gyllenhaal, Maslany, and Richardson. There are a couple of scenes that beautifully demonstrate the truth of “Attachment Theory” – that a secure attachment to another enables one to achieve what one could never do alone. (I.e. Behind every great man is a great dog!) In one scene, Jeff is being honored at a Boston Bruins hockey game, but needs Erin to be with him when he goes onto the ice in his wheelchair. In another, Jeff’s dressings on his legs are being changed for the first time. The pain is excruciating, so rather than look at his legs, he looks into Erin’s eyes for the strength to be able to bear the pain.
The film will work fine as a rental, but it’s good enough to see now on the BS. As a bonus, even if you jog to the theater, you won’t need to go 26 miles to see it!