Review: ‘Stronger’ is a profound masterpiece

In this Sept. 12, 2017, file photo, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, left, and Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, right, arrive on the red carpet at the U.S. premiere of the movie "Stronger" at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where Bauman and others who were injured in the 2013 deadly attack were treated in Boston. Gyllenhaal plays Bauman in the film, which opens Friday, Sept. 22, at theaters nationwide. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

In this Sept. 12, 2017, file photo, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, left, and Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, right, arrive on the red carpet at the U.S. premiere of the movie "Stronger" at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where Bauman and others who were injured in the 2013 deadly attack were treated in Boston. Gyllenhaal plays Bauman in the film, which opens Friday, Sept. 22, at theaters nationwide. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Jake Gyllenhaal, arguably one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, might finally get his Academy Award this year. His performance in “Stronger” is right up there with his role in “Brokeback Mountain” as one of the best of his career, and after seeing the film, the only question you will have is, “Why doesn’t Gyllenhaal have an Oscar?” But there’s another stellar actor in “Stronger” who should get as much recognition as Gyllenhaal, perhaps more. I’m talking about Tatiana Maslany (most known for starring in BBC’s “Orphan Black”), who, in “Stronger,” gave one of the best performances of 2017, period.

“Stronger” tells the story of Boston native Jeff Bauman (played by Gyllenhaal), who loses his legs in the Boston Marathon bombings. No longer able to walk and forced into a life of unwanted fame, Jeff becomes a hero in his hometown while struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Everyday routines like using the toilet and taking a shower become almost impossible for Jeff and it takes the help of his ex-girlfriend Erin Hurley (played by Tatiana Maslany), both emotionally and physically, to make him function. She becomes Jeff’s rock, his foundation and most important source of support on his road to rehabilitation.

There’s really nothing bad to say about this film, it’s virtually flawless—from its cinematography (the spirit of Boston is captured in every scene) to its actors—and while every actor in “Stronger” gave tremendous performances, Maslany as Erin was the highlight of the film. She encapsulates every scene she is in with so much emotion that you’ll feel as if you were in her shoes. This sort of cinematic empathy is really hard to do and she absolutely nails it. There is one scene in particular where it’s impossible not to feel what she feels, but the beautiful thing is that the connection we make with Erin is one we can also feel with other characters in the film.

Every close friend and relative in Jeff Bauman’s life had to change their lives due to Jeff’s terrible loss, demanding of all of them to be stronger. From his mother, to his father, to his best friends, they all had to be stronger and support Jeff in his newfound struggle. Their strength to persist while facing the tough reality of Jeff’s loss made all of these characters come to life onscreen, but Erin (Maslany) was the one who was the strongest of them all.

There is another character in “Stronger” who also shines. While he only appears towards the end of the film, Carlos Sanz’s character Carlos is one of the best personalities in “Stronger.” He is a Latino father who was handing out American flags during the Boston Marathon. After the bombings, he was the one who saved Jeff Bauman’s life. Throughout the film, Jeff is reluctant in meeting with Carlos, but when they finally meet by the end of the film, it is Carlos’ life story that inspires Jeff to keep moving forward when he is at his lowest point. Carlos’ story is heartbreaking while at the same time inspiring, a story worth discovering seeing the film.

It’s about time Jake Gyllenhaal wins an Oscar and “Stronger” might actually earn him the honor. Nevertheless, I think Tatiana Maslany is the one who should be getting a nomination for the prestigious award, because she is wholeheartedly the heart of the film.


Carlos Rosario Gonzalez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at carlos.rosario_gonzalez@uconn.edu.