What happens when we make heroes out of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances? Find out in the new inspirational and heartwarming movie opening this Friday, September 22nd starring Jake Gyllenhaal called Stronger.
Almost everybody recognizes the photo that dominated the news after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. The photo was taken of Jeff Bauman being whisked away by a guy in a cowboy hat after his legs were tragically blown off by the terrorist’s bomb at the finish line at the Marathon. It quickly became a symbol of all that is both good and bad about mankind. This is the true story of an ordinary Boston citizen, Jeff Bauman who became an unwilling symbol of survival and hope for not only Boston but for the world after a cruel and heartless act of terrorism. This is Jeff’s journey through the destruction as the easy going guy with no real goals and his rebirth as a double amputee who finds himself responsible not only for his family and girlfriend but for world who wants him to be their hero.
We’ve seen the story of tragedy and perseverance before but this movie is different and special in numerous ways. First of all Jeff is a lovable guy who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s every man and it’s easy to see yourself in his situation. Jeff’s family and city are all supportive of him almost to the point of suffocating him. Second of all and this is big, Jake Gyllenhaul’s performance is everything in this movie. He gives a quiet but powerful and award winning performance. He doesn’t have that much to say about the new situation he finds himself in (Jeff is not a real emotional guy) but Jake says it all with the wide ranging of emotions that you see in his face but doesn’t have the words to say. Jeff is suffering in a million different ways but he doesn’t want to let anyone down and your heart will break over and over for him.
The other outstanding performance is by Tatiana Maslany who plays Jeff’s girlfriend, Erin. This is a couple that dated for a while and broke up. Jeff wants her back so he decides to show up at the marathon that she’s running in with a sign and faithfully waits to win her back at the finish line. That might have worked except that a huge thing like terrorism completely destroys them both. Erin is guilt ridden beyond comprehension that it was her fault he was there. She wants to help but feels pushed away at every attempt she makes by everyone who surrounds Jeff – his family and in particular Jeff’s long suffering but loving mother who is effectively played by Miranda Richardson.
A pivotal point in the movie is the meeting of Jeff and his rescuer, Carlos – the guy in the cowboy hat who in my opinion is the true hero of this story. This is the guy that risked his own life and ran towards the bomb to save people and in particular, Jeff. At times I believe Jeff wished that Carlos hadn’t saved him. Carlos has his own tragic story of loss and regret and at last Jeff gets it. Not only did Carlos save him but it gave Carlos a reason and purpose to redeem himself. This is the moment that Jeff finally understands how important his story is and that he needs to find the strength to do what’s necessary to get on with life and Carlos rescues from himself this time.The director gives a voice to the survivors of this horrific act and victims everywhere. He creates a subtle but inspirational movie that doesn’t focus on the terrorists and for that I’m glad. It’s the very personal and inspiring story of one average guy who becomes a symbol of not only Boston’s tough survivor character “Boston Strong” but of Americans’ tenacity in the face of tragedy. Jeff is the perfect hero for America – he’s just like us and I’m glad he is. Go see this important movie.
I attended a Question and Answer presentation after the Stronger Movie showing in Dallas this week with the star of the movie, Jake Gylenhaal and the subject of the story, Jeff Bauman. The movie was attended primarily by people with disabilities, amputees, and healthcare workers. There was a lot of gratitude in their voices and their comments that Jeff’s story of recovery as a bombing victim means so much to them. The movie sheds a light on the difficulty and challenges of recovering from the loss of a limb or a debilitating illness. It was a very emotional and uplifting night. The actor and hero did not disappoint, they were both warm, authentic, and caring. As Jake pointed out that night, we have all been through something in our lives that has challenged us. This movie sheds a light on how one man overcame what seemed to be impossible circumstances.
Stronger opens in theaters this Friday, September 22 in Dallas/Fort Worth at the following theaters (check for times):
Legacy 14 Plano, TX
Cinemark West Plano 20 Plano, TX
Angelika Film Center and Cafe Dallas, TX
North Park 15 Dallas, TX
AMC Village on the Parkway Dallas, TX
Tinseltown 17 Grapevine, TX
Southlake Town Square Southlake, TX