Symbols and Sentimentality: Our Review of ‘Stronger’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2017 by - September 29, 2017
Symbols and Sentimentality: Our Review of ‘Stronger’

A fairly standard straightforward story of overcoming obstacles and achieving happiness is buoyed in Stronger by the fact that it’s based on a recent, harrowing, and unforgettable true story.

Whereas audiences had last year a film about Boston’s reaction to the Marathon Day Bombings, focusing on law enforcement, Stronger narrows its gaze to a fateful young couple that day. Jeff Bauman, played with great humanity and range by Jake Gyllenhaal, found himself rooting that day for his on again, off again girlfriend who was running the race. Then a bomb exploding, blowing off his legs.

Stronger follows not only Jeff’s recovery and resilience, but also that of Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who sacrifices so much of her life to take care of Jeff, sometimes in direct confrontation to his family.

Directed by David Gordon Green, Stronger hits all the beats effectively, the rises and falls, the tearful moments, the fits of terror and panic, and the joyful acceptance. It’s sweet and intimate and at times intense, and the extent to which you want to this story to uplift you will determine whether or not you like it.

That is to say, Stronger wears proudly it’s ‘Boston Strong’ attitude, focusing purely and intently on championing the human spirit. Both lead performances are compelling, and each character is given their share of relatable and understandable flaws. The movie is at its best when focusing on them – the Bauman family, however true to form, comes off a little over the top, especially when embracing empty catchphrases and throwing around the word ‘hero.’ Green isn’t mocking them though, but it can come across like that to some of the more jaded among us.

There is also a two-minute infomercial about CostCo shoved into the middle of the film, which is pretty weird. But that too is played sincere, as is everything else in the emotionally-charged Stronger.

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.