Stronger (2017)- A What I’ve Been Watching Special

 

watching

DSCF5226.raf

The good folks over at Nudge-book.com in conjunction with publicists Thinkjam contacted me regarding a book to film adaptation.  Due to unforeseen circumstances the book has not yet arrived but I have had the opportunity, thanks to Liongate to view the film which opens this week.

Stronger is the real-life story of Jeff Bauman who, in an attempt to win over his ex-girlfriend decided to stand at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 with a congratulatory poster praising her achievement.  This meant he was at the wrong place at the wrong time as a terrorist bomb explosion shattered his life and led to a double above-knee amputation.  “Stronger” is the tale of Jeff’s attempts to fight back and get his life back on track.

STONGER

To be honest, this is not the sort of film I would normally seek out.  It makes for tough viewing and there is little in the way of light relief but it is undeniably very well done.  The film is directed by David Gordon Green, a screenwriter and producer, who has worked in different film genres and also in television since his critically acclaimed 2000 debut “George Washington” (not about the President) which he wrote, directed and produced.  It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Bauman and Miranda Richardson as his mother, Patti.  Both performances deserve to be given consideration at Oscar nomination time.

We first meet Jeff in the middle of a losing streak.  His relationship with Erin has ended, he is botching things up in his job as a chicken roaster for Cost Co, he’s living with his mother who has a drink problem and socialises with a group of boorish macho sports fans.  His relationship has ended because “he never shows up”, the irony being when he does show up to cheer Erin on he gets blown up. 

DSCF8558.raf

I do think that this is a film which will resonate more with an American audience.  There’s an entrenched Americanness which is inescapable.  It’s rooted in American working- class culture, depicting Jeff as an ordinary guy, which here comes across via sport, beer and macho male banter.  I did initially feel quite distanced.  There’s also the American sense of “Gung-ho” and flag-waving patriotism which we British viewers find a little strange.  In many ways the film does challenge this.  In a very unsettling scene Jeff has become a beacon of hope for the Boston community and the embodiment of the “Boston Stronger” campaign.  He is asked to come on to the rink with a flag at an ice-hockey game far too early in his rehabilitation and is unable to accept the title of “hero” which is bestowed upon him.  His family find this difficult to comprehend leading to a showdown with his mother when she invites Oprah Winfrey to interview him.

DSCF6871.raf

The whole thing is extremely sobering and powerfully brings home the long- lasting repercussions for Jeff and those around him.  A couple want their photo taken with him because they seem him as an example of “don’t let the terrorists win”.  Jeff’s response is that the terrorists have won- they have taken his legs from him.  It’s not possible to watch without sensing that taste of bitterness in the mouth.  A scene of reckless behaviour whilst drunk and high and the official response to it would have seemed too much if it was not obviously rooted in truth.  None of this makes for easy viewing.

We can tell from the title and the existence of an autobiography that at some point Jeff has to begin to put his life back together, but it does seem a long time coming.  A long-delayed meeting with the man who saved his life begins that process and we are left, inevitably and thankfully, with a feeling of hope for this extraordinary survivor.

DSCF4211.raf

Jake Gylennhaal is a fair chunk older than Bauman who was 28 at the time of the bombing but he gives the part the right sense of experience and gravitas to make the painful scenes plausible yet watchable as it is hard to keep your eyes off him.  Moments where I felt an urge to close my eyes (there’s removal of bandages) I found myself fixed on Gylennhaal’s reactions.  Tatiana Maslay as Erin is so often the voice of reason and Miranda Richardson as his mother plays a significant part in the success of the film.

DSCF7354_RJake Gylenhaal with Jeff Bauman

It’s not an easy film to watch and would certainly not be first choice for a festive night out but one man’s determination to succeed should entice audiences.  I did emerge from it feeling like I had been pulled through the wringer but Jeff Bauman’s fight-back deserves to be told and this production has done his real-life story justice.

fourstars

Stronger is released in cinemas nationwide in the UK on December 8th.  View the trailer here. Many thanks to Nudge for the opportunity to do this.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Stronger (2017)- A What I’ve Been Watching Special

  1. I completely get your point about choosing the film…I am gonna be a bit up-to-date with politics here…not sure quite what Mr. Trump wants to achieve with meddling into Middle East politics, and making Jerusalem the capital of Israel…As I cannot see anything, but UPHEAVAL for Palestinians, not understanding the Middle East troubles, NON SENSICAL anyway, depends on where you stand,there is not much difference between the Jews and Arabs (Palestinians)do not tell them…, basically both parties want the same, but none of them is willing to engage THE BRAIN…to arrive to a practicable solution….Words like DOGMA, PIGHEADIDNESS…IRRATIONAL PASSION, VOLATILITY SPARKING HATRED… that is all that drives it …So no wonder, the third party feels like it needs to be involved…You know there is a saying in Slovakia, while 2 sides at each other throats, the third lot REASON has to intervene…But in this case I doubt it, more bombs and more innocent people affected by this SHEER MADNESS, OF RECKLESS so called diplomacy, weather in Israel, Boston, London…Mr. Trump is a liability…

    Like

  2. Odd because my colleague Hannah was telling me about this only this morning. She did say that while she didn’t ‘enjoy it, it was thought provoking.
    By her own admission Hannah is a bit of a drama queen and a broken nail is a total disaster.( She is a really nice young woman). She recently had a sprained ankle and made a terrible fuss. She told me this film put everything into perspective.
    I don’t think I will see it, it’s not my thing. So far, I’ve heard two reviews and you’ve both said the same.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s