Stronger

First Hit:  I was very surprised at how much I like this film, it had heart.

Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favorite actors. I can tell he puts in a lot of work to each role to make it real for him and the audience. Here as Jeff Bauman, the young man who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Jake does Jeff proud. He shows Jeff’s humanity and the cycle of up and downs that he had to go through after the event.

Jeff and his family are true blue collar Boston loving people. Jeff works at Costco (a shout out to them for their unending support of Jeff) and, as most Boston people do, loves his Red Sox. He spends a fair amount of his off time in bars with his buddies and family.

The one early scene when he tells his drunk mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson), to F#%& off in the bar is indicative of the family’s love and bickering with each other. His father Big Jeff (Clancy Brown) is a self-proclaimed know it all but doesn’t always know very much. His attempts to control situations was evident in the hospital waiting room.

The family dynamics are perfectly matched with Jeff’s inability to grow up. It is exemplified in his off and on relationship with his girlfriend, Erin Hurley (Tatianna Maslany), whom has just broken up with him again. He loves her and you can tell she loves him but she tires of his childish behavior and for not showing up to events with and for her. To convince her he needs another chance, he tells her he’s going to be at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with a sign he’s going to paint for her. And as we all know, that isn’t where you wanted to be that day.

This film then moves through Jeff’s struggle to deal with the event, losing his legs, and how is he going to be someone in the world. Erin commits to him, but Jeff does his usual flaking out and finally, after she tells him she’s pregnant with his child and he says he cannot be a part of this, she leaves for good.

Avoiding his internal bombing traumatic issues, he finally meets up with and talks with the man who saved him from death by putting tourniquets on above his knees to keep him from bleeding to death. After Carlos (Carlos Sanz) tells him his story, Jeff gets real and starts to take charge of his life.

It is a sweet, heartfelt story. The in-hospital scenes and staff were real. By using these hospital staff and a hospital, it felt solid and true to the story. The visuals of showing Gyllenhaal without legs was extremely well done. The film felt real through many of the scenes.

Gyllenhaal was amazing. When the doctor is taking off the bandages and dressings for the first time in the hospital, I felt his pain all the way to my seat in the theater. Excellent work. Maslany was amazing. Her ability to share so many feelings of love and doubts with her eyes and mouth were spot on. Great work. Richardson had me totally believing she was an alcoholic self-serving mess. She gave a very strong performance. Sanz was sublime. The way he told the story of his two sons to Jeff was ethereal. Brown was perfect as Jeff’s father. Proud, boisterous and overly confident of his ability to process and manage situations. John Pollono wrote a wonderfully expressive screenplay. David Gordon Green caught the magic of the story and brought it to life by guiding his great actors through the feeling vision.

Overall:  Far better film that I’d thought it would be. I love being surprised.