Sep 22, 2017

A docudrama that gives you more than history.


Grade: B

Director: David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express)

Screenplay: John Pollono (Sex & Marriage), from Jeff Bauman book.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler),  Tatiana Maslany (Woman in Gold)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 56 min

by John DeSando

“Boston is the cream of the crop of the marathon world. It has such history that you feel such honor just being a part of it. All the other races have pacers to get you to a Boston qualifying time.” Summer Sanders

For those of us who have attended the Boston Marathon, the 15 April 2013 bombing was a personal matter about a public but humane event characterized by a warm communal vibe tethered to a strong competitive event. Director David Gordon Green’s intimately-told Stronger depicts the ordeal of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who lost two legs to the bombs but not his will to rise above the tragedy.

The strength of this docudrama is the mercurial relationship between Jeff and his girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Avoiding the clichéd story of overcoming all obstacles, Stronger takes time with the smaller things of life, like family and going to the bathroom.

Gyllenhaal, a producer of this film, relays his torment about connecting permanently with her while he retains the sense of humor that lets him joke about his lost legs right after gaining consciousness in the hospital (Forrest Gump, Lt. Dan joke).

A most personal and humane story, Stronger evidences the heroic possibilities even in the most common of men. Specifically, as a chicken processor at COTCO, Jeff holds not much promise for such a prospect as Erin. Yet he’s a good person, a smart person, and brighter than his Chelmsford buds and his boozy mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson). All of these characters are so believably “Boston,” I thought I was back working in Dorchester.

Alas, no docudrama is perfect, and this one suffers from shots and scenes too slow, and eventually the almost two-hour film is too long by about 15 minutes. However, just maybe the filmmakers wanted us to feel the numbing effect of a long marathon that couldn’t have foreseen it would become iconic.

“Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.” Angela Duckworth

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at