After the earnest, but sometimes affecting bravado of Patriots Day, The Boston Marathon bombing is tackled by focusing on Jeff Bauman, a man who lost both of his legs while waiting at the finish line for a girl he was desperate to impress.
Based on his own book, Bauman's journey is different in that it's firmly his, the aftermath shown intently through his eyes, his struggle, his humour, his family, the woman he loves...
Boston movies are known for sliding into parody, even those with the noblest of intentions. The accent, the setting, and the people have been featured on screen so much, you find yourself leaving the cinema trying to nail the dialect "Get in the Kaaaa." So despite the beautiful, real-life story at its core here, the cards were kind of stacked against director David Gordon Green and star Jake Gyllenhaal from the get-go.
You needn't worry, as Stronger offers the most effortless portrayal of the city and its people since Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone. It absolutely never feels like it's trying too hard, which is no mean feat when you consider that this tragedy is what brought on 'Boston Strong' and a predictable barrage of blue-collar patriotism, with Bauman in the centre of it all - despite never asking for it. It's that struggle that drives a superb Gyllenhaal in the central role. Bauman was able to identify one of the bombers to the FBI from his hospital bed and was branded a hero by the American public but wanted no part in it. He was also kind of a casual fuck up before the bombing, and the source material and Green never shy away from the frustrations of the man.
The overall casting is fantastic; Miranda Richardson unrecognisable and subtly heartbreaking as Jeff's mother, while Tatiana Maslany is a stand out as the woman Bauman was waiting for at the finish line. It's that romance that really makes Stronger all the more beautiful, because not a second of it feels contrived.
If there's any justice, Gyllenhaal will find himself with an Oscar nomination; his work here is magnificent and he once again proves himself one of the most flexible leading men of his generation.