By MEGHAN PIERCE
I really didn’t want to see Stronger, but I’m glad I did.
Especially in light of the mass shooting in Las Vegas this week, I didn’t feel up to a movie about a victim of a terrorist attack who overcomes all.
I guess I had the media-packaged view of Jeff Bauman who nearly died and lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.
Jake Gyllenhaal brings an amazing performance to the part of Bauman, a kind and goofy Chelmsford man, who loves the Red Sox, works at Costco, and shares an apartment with his alcoholic mother, brilliantly played by Miranda Richardson. He’s a sweet guy, but he lacks motivation and that’s why he keeps losing his girlfriend Erin Hurley, played by Tatiana Maslany, who should win 12 Oscars for this part.
On the outs with Erin, Bauman makes a gesture when he learns she is running the Boston Marathon — to show her that he can show up for her, by showing up at the finish line of the marathon for her.
He shows up just in time for the bombing.
He is saved by a man in the crowd, Carlos, but loses both his legs. When he wakes up in the hospital he asks if Erin is OK, makes a joke about losing his legs then says he saw the bomber.
FBI comes to his hospital bed to take the description and he is called a hero.
But from here it is a long, hard road to the image on the movie poster of Gyllenhaal walking on two prosthetic legs, and it’s a journey well worth taking with Stronger.
Released from the hospital six weeks later, his family members use “Boston Strong” as a victory cry. But the chant is a hollow anthem for Bauman, who struggles with simple tasks, has no focus in physical therapy, and is losing hope. This is a man who lacked commitment and motivation when he had both legs and now he is being carted around in a wheelchair by family members to sporting events so people can call him a “hero” and shout “Boston Strong” at him. These events trigger the PTSD he now has from the bombing.
When Erin comes back into his life she immediately sees and understands the PTSD, but there is only so much she can do for Bauman who still struggles with despair. The turning point comes when he meets with Carlos. It’s a meeting he doesn’t want saying, “why would I want to relive the worst day of my life.”
But when he meets Carlos he meets a man who has also suffered great tragedy and now lives for others. This meeting doesn’t automatically fix Bauman, but it gives him a new perspective he seems to understand is his only way out of despair.
Stronger was released Sept. 22. It is currently playing at the Peterborough Community Theatre. It is rated R and its run time is an 1 hour and 52 minutes.