Dog’s Movie House: “Stronger” A Powerful Tale Of Redemption!


Howdy Folks!  It’s The Kendog!



Jake Gyllenhaal In “Stronger”

The bombing of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 has been covered quite extensively in the world of cinema, most recently in the Mark Wahlberg film “Patriot’s Day.”  But what we haven’t seen much of is the stories of the survivors of that terrible day and what they went through to rehabilitate themselves in the face of some pretty horrific odds.   “Stronger” David Gordon Green’s latest, does just that, focusing on the incredible true story of Jeff Bauman, a young man who lost both legs in the blast and had to fight not only to regain mobility, but to discover who he was as a person.

“Stronger” feature Jake Gyllenhaal in an incredible performance as Bauman, a twenty – something slacker in Boston who still lives with his mother and works aimlessly in the meat department at Costco.  His only true passion seems to be rooting for his beloved Boston Red Sox for which he takes credit for every single victory.

Bauman does have a girlfriend. . .sort of.  Her name is Erin (Tatiana Maslany) and the two of them have broken up and gotten back together a number of times, mostly due to Bauman’s inability to make a commitment.  He tries to come through for her on the day of the Boston Marathon, waiting for her to finish the race and standing on the finish line.  Unfortunately he’s at ground zero when the bombs go off and he loses his legs above the knee in the process.  The images of him being carted off along with his help in identifying one of the bombers make him a hero in Boston, a position he’s unable to accept.  What follows is an engaging look into a man trying to put himself together both physically and mentally in the face of incredible challenges, some of them brought on by the flaws in his own character.

“Stronger” benefits from a strong script by John Pollono that isn’t afraid to present the characters as three dimensional entities which means that we get to see the whole picture, warts and all.  This especially applies to Gyllenhaal’s Jeff Bauman, who spends most of the film fighting demons that were their long before he lost his legs in the bombing.  It brings to mind the hero’s journey of Sharlto Copley’s Wikus in “District 9” in that Bauman is a decent but flawed figure whose journey takes the entire film.  The loss of his legs doesn’t make him a saint, nor does it automatically make him any more driven to get better.  Bauman’s emotional destination has to be earned and that process makes for a very rewarding viewing experience.

Along with Gyllenhaal’s award-worthy performance, Maslany is equally good as Erin, a driven woman who loves Jeff but is frustrated by his lack of ambition and commitment.  Miranda Richardson is in fine form as Jeff’s overbearing, alcoholic mother who speaks of sacrifice without really ever considering what it might really mean.  Clancy Brown does some good work as Big Jeff, Bauman’s father who has trouble expressing his emotions.  (His first response after seeing his son’s legs is to go get something to eat).

Bauman’s journey is an incredible thing to watch and if I had any trouble with the film at all, it’s the obnoxious nature of Jeff’s family.  They’re loud, profane, crude, and paired with that harsh Boston accent, make you want to punch them in the face during various parts of the movie.  Sometimes you doubt if some of the family members even care about Jeff’s plight.   Overall, though, Gyllenhaal and Maslany carry the day and make “Stronger” one of the most rewarding experiences at the movies this year!  4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!  So Sayeth The Kendog!  



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