Stronger

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Stronger Movie Poster Image
Post-bomb gore, language, drinking in rehabilitation drama.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film is about persevering to overcoming dreadful adversity -- in this case, the loss of limbs from a terrorist bombing -- and growing up a little along the way. Loyalty and love are rewarded.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character, Jeff, is depicted as something of a charming man-child who has to confront reality after losing his legs in a terrorist attack. After much self-pitying, drinking, and neglecting his girlfriend, Erin, he comes around to recognizing the positive effects he can still have in the world. Erin is intelligent, dedicated, and good-hearted. Family and friends rally to Jeff's side, though his mother has a drinking problem and doesn't always act in his best interests. Little diversity in the movie's South Boston setting.

Violence

The gory aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing is shown, complete with severed limbs and plenty of blood. There's also a drunken brawl. 

Sex

A sensual sex scene includes brief partial nudity (bare back of woman sitting atop partner, the side of a breast -- including nipple). Also nonsexual, somewhat obscured nudity in a bath scene. 

Language

"F--k" is used frequently. Other strong language includes "p---y," "f--got," "d--k," "a--hole," "s--t," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," and "hell." Remarks that tread into homophobia elicit some pushback.

Consumerism

Costco management is portrayed in an extremely positive light. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent drinking to excess. Jeff's mother is drunk in several scenes and apparently routinely drinks herself to sleep.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stronger graphically re-creates the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, complete with severed limbs and plenty of blood. It also presents a culture in which drinking too much is a given and includes a brief sex scene with partial nudity (bare back, side of a breast). There's also quite a bit of swearing, from "f--k" to "s--t" and more. The main character (real-life bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a long time to get there, but he eventually arrives at a better place than he first finds himself in when the bomb takes his legs. The movie's messages of personal growth in the face of adversity and the strength drawn from family and loved ones will likely balance some of the less kid-friendly elements for many viewers.

User Reviews

Adult Written byKim I. September 30, 2017

F Bomb central

Would have been a good movie if it weren't for the hundred or more f bombs.
Adult Written byBob H. September 25, 2017

Good role model!

This movie is about modern day terror and how one victim overcame it!
Teen, 15 years old Written bybrandonjbaseball February 19, 2018

Really strong film

This is a really good representation of the Boston bombing and the after effects of a real survivor who is wonderfully potrayed by Jake Gylenhall. But this movi... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byethanhood January 7, 2018

What's the story?

STRONGER is a fact-based drama that takes on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. It tells the story of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who loses his legs in the blast but eventually finds some direction. In the film, Bauman is a bit of an unfocused man-child who can't keep it together well enough to hang on to his girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Despite the aid and attention of family (including his boozy but adoring mom, Patty, played by Miranda Richardson) and loved ones, Bauman seems ill-equipped to recover emotionally. The film follows Bauman's journey from shell-shocked reluctant hero to someone who's strong enough to shoulder responsibility beyond himself.

Is it any good?

David Gordon Green's Stronger shifts the focus from the terrorist hunt connected to the Boston bombing to an effective personal story of rebuilding yourself from the studs. (As a result, it's an unintended but effective companion piece to Patriots Day.) Bauman, who famously helped identify the bombers from his hospital bed, has every bit as tough a time adjusting to post-attack life without legs as you'd expect. The film presents him as a somewhat directionless man-child who's suddenly thrust into the spotlight and very much not ready for his close-up -- despite Patty's smothering love and the support of way-too-good-for-him Erin. The film takes an awfully long time arriving at Bauman's rise up from PTSD-fueled drinking, self-pity, and self-destructiveness, but it does get there.

But beneath the expected inspirational tale, Stronger has an interesting and effective undercurrent of guilt, mostly in the form of survivor's guilt. It's unspoken but present. Where the film is "strongest" is in its unspoken moments, actually. Green wisely makes room for his actors to breathe. Much is told in lingering reaction shots, letting us experience what the characters are feeling. This works especially well with Maslany, who turns in outstanding work as long-suffering Erin. Her performance is understated and entirely present. From the smile she can't suppress when on-again, off-again boyfriend Jeff does something charming early on, to her wordless realization that he was hurt in the bombing, and in so many other moments, Maslany is disarmingly unadorned and real. Unfortunately, the narrative isn't arranged in the most compelling fashion. It may closely mirror reality, for all we know, but as a drama, it has a bit of drift to it; it lacks drive. Still, Maslany, plus the effective Clancy Brown in a smaller role as Jeff’s dad, help elevate the film.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Stronger's messages. What does Jeff learn over the course of the story? Which events/meetings seemed to turn him around in the end? Do you consider him a role model? Why or why not? How does he demonstrate perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Why do you think Jeff didn't enjoy his newfound fame? Have you heard of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Would you consider "guilt" a theme in the film? Have you ever heard of "survivor's guilt"? 

  • Were you surprised that a story about this incident/attack wasn't focused on catching the bombers? What did the filmmakers seem more interested in exploring? How accurate do you think it is to what really happened?

  • Did you notice how long the director chose to hold on reaction shots (where you see a person's facial expression while something else is happening or someone else is speaking)? Why do you think he did that? What's the effect of that, rather than always cutting to a close-up of the speaker, or always showing us what the subject sees?

Movie details

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