Like the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, 9/11, and the Charleston church shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing is a terrible scar on American history. I remember coming home from class while a college student in Texas, and seeing the bombing happen in real-time. My heart cried.

In the new film Stronger, audiences are invited to fearlessly relive the tragic moments of that day. But there’s a twist: the movie is less about the tragedy itself, and more about how one victim deals with his life afterwards.

Mega movie star, Jake Gyllenhaal, leads the cast playing Jeff Bauman, a 27-year-old, Bostonian who lost both of his legs in the bombing. A real life survivor, he was waiting at the finish line of the marathon in hopes of winning back his ex-girlfriend, Erin (played by Tatiana Maslany).

The bombing is depicted honestly and graphically, but as I stated earlier, this movie is not about that. It’s about Jeff and Erin’s relationship. Each scene in the film deeply explores how the two connect, disconnect, and, because of the tragedy, reconnect. The writers acutely follow Jeff as he struggles to accept his new life without legs, and Erin, as she works to comfort him, as well as trying not to blame herself for his new condition.

The film’s plot points are not that groundbreaking and could be predicted within its first five minutes, but what I found surprising about Stronger is it’s willingness to satisfy many of my curiosities. How does Jeff, a man who lived most of his life with legs, now use the bathroom, bathe, and even have sex, without legs? All those questions, and more, were answered throughout the movie, and provided conflict after conflict that uniquely held my attention.

Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the most gifted actors of our time and I’m glad he took on this particular project, but will it be remembered a year from now? Probably not. Stronger is a solid heart-warmer, an important reminder of a dark moment in American history, and an even brighter note on how we all have the strength to overcome. Enjoy, but don’t go into the theater with too high expectations. See the film for what it is and you’ll leave more than satisfied.

Stronger (2017)
Director David Gordon Green
Writer John Pollono, Jeff Bauman, Bret Witter
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson
Rating R