The not-so-sweet here­after

Jake Gyl­len­haal’s film about a Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing vic­tim shows sur­vival is only the first step

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

Maybe St Paul’s to blame. Cer­tainly he helped cre­ate the pre­vail­ing ex­pec­ta­tion that a seis­mic life event — in his case, be­ing struck blind by heav­enly forces on the road to Da­m­as­cus — can turn a “bad” dude (he par­tic­i­pated in the ston­ing of St Stephen!) into a “good” one (he wrote most of the New Tes­ta­ment!). There’s noth­ing like grave trauma, we seem to feel, to find out what kind of per­son you re­ally are.

Which may make you think that you know how Stronger, the film from David Gor­don Green, star­ring and pro­duced by Jake Gyl­len­haal, is go­ing to play out. It’s the true story of Jeff Bau­man, a Costco em­ployee who lives with his mother, and went to the 2013 Bos­ton Marathon to see his on-off girl­friend Erin Hur­ley cross the fin­ish line. Ex­cept he never did, be­cause the Tsar­naev brothers’ bomb ex­ploded at 2.49pm, and sev­ered both of Bau­man’s legs.

So you can take it from here, right? He’s go­ing to get his life to­gether, learn to walk on his pros­thetic legs, marry Erin, maybe one day even throw the first pitch at a Red Sox game. And you’d be cor­rect, of course, only the strength of Green’s film, and Gyl­len­haal’s al­ready Os­car-touted per­for­mance, is to show that the Dam­a­scene road is not a straight one. Bau­man may have had his faults be­fore the race, but they didn’t dis­ap­pear with his lower legs. In the end, it’s not buy­ing into the pat ideas of hero­ism the world seems to want to push onto him that makes Bau­man a stronger man, and this a stronger movie.

Stronger is out in cine­mas now

Jake Gyl­len­haal and di­rec­tor David Gor­don Green on the set of Stronger

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