By Jordan Norkus
Arts and Entertainment Editor
“Look at this… Boston Strong,” said the leading character’s mother in the biographical drama film, “Stronger.”
On Friday, Sept. 22, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions released “Stronger” in theaters.
The film follows the story of Jeff Bauman Jr., who lost both of his legs on April 15, 2013 in the Boston Marathon bombing as he was waiting at the finish line for his girlfriend, Erin Hurley.
Based on the memoir of the same name, “Stronger” shows its viewers that although Bauman became a symbol of hope, not only for Boston, but for the nation as a whole, there were dark times—fueled by alcohol and despair—when he wanted to give up.
Directed by David Gordon Green, “Stronger” stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown.
After its launch in North America, the film had a box office gross of $1,611,899 during its opening weekend and received mostly positive feedback from critics and audience members. It received a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Stronger” wasn’t the only film about the Boston Marathon bombing that was released this year. “Patriots Day,” starring Mark Wahlberg, was released on Friday, Jan. 13.
Even though “Patriots Day” follows an entirely different story, many critics claimed that “‘Stronger’ is everything ‘Patriots Day’ tried to be.”
Gyllenhaal, who also worked as a producer on the project, did a heartbreaking portrayal of Bauman’s experience and had me in tears. Although I may be biased since Gyllenhaal is one of my favorite actors, he truly demonstrated Bauman’s raw emotions and took viewers on a riveting ride with him from start to finish.
The Associated Press reported that throughout the two and a half years of production, Gyllenhaal took regular trips to Boston to spend time with Bauman and study how he moves physically. The two of them became very close and got to know each other well. Bauman came to New York to see Gyllenhaal on Broadway and they even threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park together.
“Since we first met, I think he’s a totally different person now. Particularly in the past year, since getting sober. I think he’s been much more open,” said Gyllenhaal, in an interview after the film’s festival premiere. “When we first met, trying to learn about him and figure out what was going on was a little harder. And now I feel like I know him better than even when I played the role.”
Themes of alcoholism, bitterness, suffering and pain are present throughout the whole course of the film. The AP also reported that Bauman moved out of his mother’s apartment and got his own place, is now 15 months sober, and studying engineering in college. He is hoping to work for a prosthetics company.
“I took my hand off the pause button,” said Bauman. “I had my life on pause. You get stuck, especially when you’re drinking and isolating. I started homing in on what I wanted to do as a person. Just try to grow up.”
The film’s marketing tagline is “Strength Defines Us,” and I think that is something we can all take away from “Stronger.” When tragedy strikes, we have to remember that we’re not alone and that we all have it in us to drive ourselves to come through the other side stronger than we were before.
“There’s so much love coming at Jeff. People line up, they really do, to talk to him. They’re like, ‘this thing happened to me,’ ‘that thing happened to me,’” said Gyllenhaal. “We are not alone in all that, and that’s what his story says.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.