Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stronger: A Dreary Film with an Uplifting Ending

Movie Review: Stronger (2017)
Version: Library borrow

Remember the 2016 film, Patriot's Day, the retelling of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing? That was a well-told overview of the entire event and the amazing take down of the two terrorists behind the bombing. Stronger is the 2017 more personal story of Jeff Bauman, a Boston-area ne'er-do-well who lost both legs because stood by the finish line to cheer on a friend running in the marathon.

Both films are brutally honest retellings of this horrific event, but Stronger is a gritty, dreary, brooding tale of one man's pitiable journey through the hell of loss and rediscovering his self in trying to regain the use of his legs. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, the tragic Bostonian who has eyes for a young lady running in the Boston Marathon but who doesn't seem to be so interested in him. Tatiana Maslany plays Erin Hurley, who comes from a more well-to-do family and pushes away Bauman's affection until he loses his legs while showing up to watch her cross the finish line at the Marathon. And Miranda Richardson plays Bauman's troublesome single mother, Patty, who hangs on to her son for dear life, seeming to suck the life out of him as he struggles to recreate a life out of tragedy.

There isn't much uplifting to this film until the end, when Bauman finally rises above his circumstances to claim the woman he loves and the life he finally realizes he can salvage. He must dip into the lowest pit of despair before he can rebound and surge to the top. And so he does. But it's a long slog in the meantime. Based on a real story, we are at the mercy of one man's life history watching this drama unfold. However, we never lose hope as the title, Stronger, reminds us that from tragedy can come greatness.

For me, personally, the cinematography adds to the depressive quality of this film. Like most of the movies I see on topics about Boston, the dense graininess of the film gives a cheapness to the look and feel to the story. Too, the lower-class settings add a hopelessness. Since the story is biographical, this probably can't be helped, but when you add these together, they make for a dreary presentation, and perhaps that is partly by design. I noticed it also in Patriot's Day. This isn't a complaint as much as an observation and a warning to the potential viewer: This film may drag you down on a bad day.

The upshot is, the story is worth the telling and so, the film is worth seeing. Just watch it on a nice sunny, uplifting day. Then the uplifting end can shine through.

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