Stronger (3 stars)


Committed performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany power this biographical drama

David Gordon Green's dramatisation of Jeff Bauman's rehabilitation following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing avoids many of the usual pitfalls of the 'road to recovery' film by making its story revolve around dysfunctional families and personal responsibility. Bauman (played here by Jake Gyllenhaal) is waiting at the finish line for on/off girlfriend Erin Hurley (Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany) with a supportive sign when a bomb explodes, resulting in the amputation of both his lower legs.

Screenwriter John Pollono adapts Bauman's memoir with a focus on the huge range of emotions experienced by both Erin and Jeff. Director Green continues his exploration of pain, simmering rage and guilt in a similar manner to his previous films, Manglehorn and Joe, while gritty cinematography from Sean Bobbitt complements the confrontational approach.

After Bauman leaves hospital he hits rock bottom with his alcoholism, and in turn falters in his rehabilitation. Green doesn't shy away from the practical consequences of Jeff's injuries with Gyllenhaal's physical commitment as impactful as his ability to communicate inner turmoil. Erin is written as more than just the supportive girlfriend, allowing Maslany to shine in a juicy role as a young woman in her prime craving freedom and wrestling with her conscience.

Miranda Richardson is great too as Jeff's mother Patty; as she piles the pressure on her son to appear on talk shows, he defiantly resists his new position as a symbol of strength, showing another side to victims being hailed as heroes. The impressive performances have the potential to attract awards nominations and deservedly so, yet as Green and Pollono move away from these characters to take in the bigger picture and reach some crowdpleasing conclusions their story assumes a more conventional shape.

General release from Fri 8 Dec.


  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 59min
  • 15
  • Directed by: David Gordon Green
  • Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson
  • UK release: 8 December 2017

Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) is waiting for on-off girlfriend Erin (Maslany) at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 when a bomb goes off, resulting in the amputation of his legs. Biographical drama with fine work from Gyllenhaal and Maslany and from Richardson as Jeff’s mother, although it becomes crowdpleasing and…