Jeff Bauman was just at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, to cheer on his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Erin. Before his legs were ripped off by the blast that killed three, destroyed the limbs of fifteen other people, and injured hundreds, Bauman was just a guy working in chicken processing for Costco. But when he lost his legs, he found that he gained more than he ever imagined.
Played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Bauman is a decent guy, with an inclination to drink and a fear of commitment, prior to the bombing. He doesn’t really have any motivation to be anything else, which has caused Erin (Tatiana Maslany) to walk out on him several times. His parents don’t really push him to be much more, and outside of his love of the Boston Red Sox, there’s not much he finds great joy in.
And then Tsarnaev brothers planted bombs at the end of the 2013 Marathon, putting incendiaries and metal into pressure cookers. While Bauman helps identify the brothers, he struggles with the attention he receives, and the loss of his legs. He gyrates between serving as a heroic symbol of #BostonStrong and the lower end of the spectrum in his depression, pain, and PTSD, while Erin and his inner circle argue about the best way to move forward. As a native of New England (and a Red Sox fan), the film’s background for Bauman’s struggle was a side I’d never seen before of the days after the bombing.
In a final act, that quite frankly left me in tears, Stronger shows the power that Bauman comes to grip with as his story impacts hundreds (if not millions) of people. At one point, after pitching out a baseball inside Fenway Park next to Sox great Pedro Martinez, he tells another man, “I’m going to make it, and that means you will, too.” This is the power of hope, the power of our stories, the moments when God works good in our darkest night. Did God motivate the brothers? Of course not! But in the midst of Bauman’s pain and tragedy, God used that pain for something good.
Stronger’s special feature is “Faith, Hope & Love: Becoming Stronger” – a behind-the-scenes, thirty-minute featurette.