Sometimes the truth does not make a good film
Even films that are known only for their lead performance, have some form of quality across the rest of the picture. Stronger, naturally relies on the supreme shoulders of Jake Gyllenhaal, but elsewhere there is very little to enjoy about the biopic.
Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes to the streets of Boston to watch his girlfriend cross the finish line if the 2013 marathon. However, when a bomb explodes right next to him, Jeff loses both his legs and nearly his life. With a long way to recover, he must defy the odds and teach himself to walk again.
Gyllenhaal is superb. He proved the doubters wrong who suggested a disabled actor should have been cast in the role, by playing Jeff bitingly emotionally. The pain and fear shown in his facial expressions throughout the picture is simply astounding, and the scenes where his amputated legs are visible are made realistic and with clear dignity.
It is however the rest of his family and friends that stop the film from becoming the complete emotion building piece. They are irritating right to the core. There is, essentially, nothing wrong with the performances, but the way the characters come across on screen, however true, takes the focus away from Jeff with their actions and motives being almost horrible, leading to a sour feeling left in their wake.
The juxtaposition with Gyllenhaal’s recovery doesn’t work, and it just removes much of the humanity from the film, bringing in a feeling of alienation instead. Sometimes the truth does not make a good film.
Despite this, Jake is the star and he does Jeff Bauman justice as a hero and as a human. It’s a powerful enough performance to make Stronger worthwhile on its own, even with the confusing background messages.