“Admitting your limitations and accepting help makes you stronger too.” – Jeff Bauman

The old saying goes, ‘Being in the right place at the right time,’ which for many can be a rare occurrence. Most people have an opposite experience of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but could there ever be a time when someone is at the wrong place at the right time?

For Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), the wrong place/wrong time scenario would be how he would initially see life as he found himself on the footpath cheering for his ex-girlfriend who was running the Boston Marathon in April of 2013. As he looked for Erin (Tatiana Maslany), the young Boston native found himself at the epicentre of the bombing that was heard around the world. After the explosions occurred along the course, Jeff realised that he was still alive, but that he had lost both legs during the incident. Also, in amongst the tragedy, he became a catalyst in the identification and eventual capture of one of the bombers.

The time of rehabilitation and recovery that followed proved to be one of the most trying times in his life. As an underachiever in a close-knit family, he had to come to terms with his physical limitations and how this would impact the rest of his life. In amongst the challenges of figuring out the new normal of life, the young Red Sox fan had to come to terms with his new notoriety, how to deal with his relationship with Erin and learning to manage his family’s expectations of his life and being labelled a hero by people around the country.

Any film that depicts the raw and confronting world of life in Boston conjures a mixed bag of responses that range from patriotism to revulsion. Similar to Mark Wahlberg’s Patriot’s Day, director David Gordon Green (Our Brand is Crisis) does not hold back on any of the elements of the historical city’s blue-collar heritage and the culture that pulls no punches.

At the centre of all of the drama is one of this era’s quintessential method actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, who does not hold back anything in his portrayal of Jeff Bauman. He manages to deliver a performance that shows the multitude of emotions and trials of this young bombing victim. The award-winning actor manages to show the flaws and personal growth of his character and digs deep to find that element that makes this story worth seeing. Supported by the strong acting prowess of Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown and Tatiana Maslany, this is a film that shows the problematic and bitter side of the rehabilitation process and how unexpected fame can turn lives upside down.

Stronger is not a drama for the faint of heart but is worth engaging to see this disturbing, but ultimately triumphant story. Being set in Boston means that the language is as raw and unnerving as the bombing events, but it does allow for a realistic view of that area of the world. If anything, it continues to show how Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood and deserves recognition for this performance. Showing how Jeff Bauman may have actually been at the wrong place at the right time to have an impact on this world that would have never happened if he had not shown up on that fateful day.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

We need to thank the individuals that put their lives at risk for the sake of the community. Bush firefighters, police officers, the armed forces, ambulance drivers and more need our thanks and appreciation. Watching people in these services and mere strangers willing to assist the hurting during this film makes one wonder about the heart of mankind.

What makes these men and women willing to put forward their lives for the sake of others? Having the heart of God can be something to consider, but whatever their motivation, this is a time where we need to show gratitude for their sacrifice and pray for their safety in these dire moments when no one else is willing to go to the aid of others.


1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)

2. Should we do more volunteer work? (Matthew 7:12, Acts 20:35)

3. What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.