Jeff Bauman saw the Boston Marathon bomber and gave the Boston PD important leads that led to the Tsarnaev brothers. He also was severely injured in the bombing and both legs were amputated above the knee. Bauman is missing from the Peter Berg's movie "Patriots Day," even though a photo of his rescue created one of the strongest images of that day.
Director David Gordon Green is best known for his collaborations with Danny McBride, outrageous comedies like "Pineapple Express," "Your Highness" and the HBO comedies "Eastbound & Down" and "Vice Principals. He's less well-known for thoughtful indie movies like "George Washington," "All the Real Girls" and "Snow Angels."
"Stronger" zooms in on Bauman's story, his career roasting chickens at Costco, his stormy relationship with girlfriend Erin Hurley and his extremely colorful Boston family. Green, in all of his movies, is determined to chronicle the details of working class life.
Gyllenhaal is surrounded by a cast loaded with New England actors, led by legendary Boston comic Lenny Clarke as his uncle. Brit Miranda Otto (who plays Jeff's mom) has so many Boston accents to reference that she manages to slide right into the Chelmsford, MA vibe.
Gyllenhaal (who also produced "Stronger") and Green make another strong choice by having real people from Jeff's treatment play themselves. When the movie changes the bandages on Jeff's amputated legs for the first time, it's Jeff's actual doctor just doing his thing in a medical exam instead of working from a script. The same thing happens when he has his prosthetic legs fitted: Paul and Greg Martino of United Prosthetics handle the fitting in their actual factory and also work without a script.
Jeff Bauman struggles with his injuries and the post-traumatic stress from the bomb. He finds some purpose after a meeting with Carlos Arredondo (played by Carlos Sanz), the Gold Star father who assisted him after the bombing and is wearing the cowboy hat in that famous photo. Arredondo tells Jeff his story and thanks him for the opportunity to help, as aiding others helps Carlos deal with his own pain.
"Stronger" isn't has emotionally heavy as recent movies like "Thank You for Your Service." Jeff is suffering throughout the movie but that pain is balanced by Green's fascination with Boston culture. There are more than a few laughs in this movie about a civilian casualty of the war on terror.