Taglines: Strength Defines Us.
Based on a true story, Stronger stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, a man who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. He has to deal not only with a disability, but with a country that wants to turn him into a symbol of survival. With that description, you usually know what you’re going to get: a very good actor trying their damnedest to get an Oscar in a weepy drama with snot-sodden monologues and soaring strings on the soundtrack. Stronger is not that movie. Gyllenhaal could win countless gongs, and fairly so, but it will be for a movie that is far from lazy award-bait.
Stronger is a 2017 American biographical drama film directed by David Gordon Green and written by John Pollono, based on the memoir of the same name by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. It follows Bauman, who loses his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing and must adjust to his new life, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Bauman, with Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, and Clancy Brown in supporting roles.
Stronger had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 22, 2017. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised the mature take on the story and Gyllenhaal’s performance, but was a box office bomb grossing just $6 million against its $30 million budget.
Stronger grossed $4.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $1.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $6.1 million. Stronger was released on September 22, 2017, by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. The film debuted in 574 theaters and grossed $1.6 million in its opening weekend, finishing 8th at the box office. In its second weekend, despite being added to 72 theaters, the film dropped 38% to $986,560 and 13th place.
On July 14, 2014, it was reported that Lionsgate was developing a film based on Jeff Bauman’s memoir Stronger, with playwright John Pollono writing the script. On July 17, 2015, David Gordon Green signed on to direct the film. On July 29, 2015, it was reported that Jake Gyllenhaal was in talks to play Bauman, and on October 7, 2015, it was reported that Tatiana Maslany was in talks to play Bauman’s girlfriend Erin Hurley. On February 2, 2016, Bold Films signed on to produce and finance the film. On April 5, 2016, Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown joined the film, as Bauman’s mother and father, respectively. The same month, Frankie Shaw joined the cast.
About the Story
Jeff Bauman is a well-intentioned but underachieving Boston native who works at the deli counter of a Costco and lives in a small two-bedroom apartment with his alcoholic mother, Patty. One day at the local bar, Jeff runs into his ex-girlfriend Erin, who is attracted to his kindness and charm but finds herself constantly frustrated by his lack of commitment. After learning that Erin is running in the Boston Marathon to raise money for the hospital she works at, Jeff asks every patron in the bar to donate and then promises Erin he’ll wait at the finish line for her with a big sign.
The day of the Marathon, Jeff scrambles to make it to the finish line on time but reaches it just before Erin reaches the finish line. As she approaches a bomb goes off right where Jeff is standing. After being rushed to a hospital, both of Jeff’s legs are amputated above the knee. When he regains consciousness, Jeff tells his brother that he saw the bomber before the explosion. Patty calls the FBI, and Jeff is able to give them a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Local authorities capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev days later, and Jeff is hailed as a hero.
Jeff struggles to adjust to his condition as well as his newfound fame. Patty books several interviews and constantly surrounds Jeff with news reporters during his rehab sessions which Erin, who has since rekindled with Jeff, objects. Jeff and his family are invited to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Boston Bruins who ask Jeff to wave the flag during the game’s opening ceremony. The crowd triggers traumatic flashbacks from Jeff, and he breaks down in the elevator. Erin comforts him and insists he talk to his family about the fragility of his mental state and the impact his newfound exposure is having on it. Later that night they make love for the first time since his injury.
Patty books Jeff an interview with Oprah Winfrey without telling him causing Erin to speak up and tell her that the constant media attention is intensifying Jeff’s PTSD. After an argument between Patty and Erin, Jeff finally admits that he does not want to do any more interviews. Patty, disheartened, tells him that she only wishes for the world to see how amazing her son is.
She soon begins enabling Jeff’s worst tendencies including his laziness and affinity for drinking. He begins missing physical therapy appointments due to long nights of drinking usually with Patty equally as drunk. Erin, who has since moved in, finds Patty blacked out on the couch and Jeff in a bathtub unconscious and covered in vomit. The next day she snaps at Patty for her selfishness and negligence before calling Jeff out for his self-pity and refusal to stand up to his mother. She storms off leaving Jeff and Patty to drive home alone.
That night, Jeff blows off Erin to drink with his brothers at a bar. Two patrons at the bar begin asking Jeff questions about the bombing insinuating that the event was a government conspiracy to start a war in Iran and Jeff was paid to look like a victim. Insulted Jeff and his brothers initiate a bar fight with the patrons. Erin picks him up later that night and tells him she’s pregnant. Jeff begins to panic and tells her he isn’t ready to be a father causing Erin to scold him for constantly running away from his problems. She leaves him in the car without removing his wheelchair from the trunk, enters their apartment, and packs her things. Jeff crawls to the apartment door and has a PTSD flashback of the bombing in its entirety.
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Richard Lane Jr., Nate Richman, Lenny Clarke, Patty O’Neil, Kate Fitzgerald, Danny McCarthy, Frankie Shaw, Michelle Forziati
Screenplay by: John Pollono
Production Design by: Stephen H. Carter
Cinematography by: Sean Bobbitt
Film Editing by: Dylan Tichenor
Costume Design by: Leah Katznelson, Kim Wilcox
Set Decoration by: Jeanette Scott
Art Direction by: Paul Richards
Music by: Michael Brook
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality / nudity.
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films, Roadside Attractions
Release Date: September 22, 2017