Jake Gyllenhaal delivers another transformative performance in David Gordon Green’s inspirational biopic Stronger as Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman. Losing both his legs at the race’s finish line thanks to his close proximity to the terrorist blast, Bauman also got a good look at one of the bombing suspects, quickly vaulting to notoriety in the press as the literal and figurative embodiment of the phrase “Boston Strong.” The weight of such cultural responsibility combined with a gruelling physical therapy regimen drives Jeff to the brink of madness.
Veteran filmmaker Green (George Washington, Pineapple Express) doesn’t get many chances to impart his off-beat signature style onto Bauman’s life, since Stronger is as boilerplate of an inspirational story as they come. By design, the film belongs predominantly to Gyllenhaal’s great performance, which is supplemented nicely by great work from Tatiana Maslany as Jeff’s concerned and loving on-again-off-again girlfriend and an almost equally transformative turn from Miranda Richardson as Bauman’s glory hogging mother.
Stronger tonally feels like both main characters from David O. Russell’s The Fighter rolled into one, only there’s no fight and the Boston accents are played up to an even greater degree. It’s fine, but not much other than Jake’s performance will be memorable here.
Is Stronger essential viewing?
Maybe not at the festival, since it’s due to come out theatrically on September 22, but if you like inspirational stories about potentially unlikable everymen overcoming adversity, you could do worse.