Stronger has all the ingredients for primo awards bait, starting with that self-help-ish title, though sadly lacking the Sugababes song over the end credits. It’s derived from a memoir of the same name by Jeff Bauman, a blue-collar guy who lost the bottom half of both his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and faced a struggle to rebuild his life.
It’s the ordinariness of Bauman that makes him a good character for Jake Gyllenhaal to have picked. Amid all the strenous work he’s done lately, in the likes of Southpaw and Nocturnal Animals – not to mention his near-film-ruiningly silly appearance in Okja – this regular Joe is a mercy from the start, and he builds a really solid performance from those foundations. It’s the inner turmoil after Jeff’s maiming, rather than the external nature of his injuries, that gives the film its grit and point.
The schizoid career of director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Your Highness) finds a comfortable middle ground here in terms of adult subject matter, though like his last film, 2015’s Sandra Bullock spin-doctor flick Our Brand is Crisis, Stronger has stalled badly at the US box office. Too depressing?
Dir: David Gordon Green. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown. 15 cert, 119 mins