FILM REVIEW: Stronger
Let’s get this out there, to start with: this isn’t a happy film. You’ll want something light and fluffy on standby afterwards ! “Well, duh ?!”, I hear you cry, “It’s about a bloke who gets his legs blown off !” writes SIXTY9 Film Reviewer Richard Doherty.
Whilst the subject matter is obviously not something that’ll have you laughing in the aisles, there isn’t really a let up in the raw, visceral emotion of the film. That said, it’s well worth sticking with. Why ? Well, read on…
If you don’t know about it, “Stronger” is based upon true events: A man goes to support his on/off girlfriend at the Boston Marathon and has his legs blown off by the bomb that was detonated at the finish line in 2013. It focuses on this one family dealing with the mental and physical aftereffects, his rehabilitation and the various coping mechanisms that different folk use.
The film sets out not to glamourise or focus on the bombing itself, in fact, the whole build up to the event and the incident itself are over with very quickly. Even when we flash back to the bombing, the bomber is hardly acknowledged and isn’t shown in focus. We see a shot that shows his face but the camera and the shot is very much focused on Jake’s character. It’s almost like they’re saying “We know you caused this but we’re not going to focus on you or give weight to what you did”. The way it looked also didn’t detract from the film and the subject matter either due to its slightly muted tones. No glorious, in-your-face, bright technicolour here. It all looked a bit bleak in colour tone, which I felt was another move to wind down the glamourisation of the events.
I felt a very close tie with the film because I run too. I’ve been to mass-participation running events and it got me thinking “How would I feel if someone who came to support me, ended up like this ?”. Would I blame myself for them being there ? I probably would, yes. It felt like this question was a constant unspoken undercurrent: who blamed who. Was it the bombers fault ? Was it her fault for running it ? Was it his fault for being stood where he stood ? Of course, the fault lay with the bomber but, like I say, put yourself in their shoes (pardon the use of words there) and think what you’d be feeling. And this film does really cut to your emotions and continues to pound at them until the end. There are moments when you want to look away, there are moments when you’ll question different people’s motivations for what they’re doing, there are moments you’ll flinch, there are moments you’ll most likely shed a tear but ultimately it’s about the human spirit and remaining, as became the catchphrase, Boston Strong.
The tension and emotional rollercoaster that you go on was so palpable that, in the screening I went to, you could’ve almost heard a pin drop. Jake Gyllenhaal and an almost unrecognisable Miranda Richardson as his Mum, who likes a drink, give great performances in a film which’ll have you reaching for the tissues and quoting a line that I sometimes see on Facebook: “No, YOU’RE crying”.
Stronger is in cinemas now.