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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

As Jeff stands near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, waving his handmade sign, he isn't really thinking about the race at all. Even the pushing and shoving crowds around him aren't registering that much. Instead, his mind is focused on one sweaty, petite, dark-haired young woman who'll soon be huffing and puffing her way across the finish line. And even though Erin is now technically his ex, he still hopes she might change his life.

Yeah, they've broken up. Again. Everybody knows that. But just like the last two times, he can't get her pretty face out of his mind. And when she recently showed up at his local watering hole, raising money for her charity run in the marathon, well, he couldn't help but try to grab her attention again.

The problem, of course, has always been Jeff himself. He makes, shall we say, less-than-dependable choices. Jeff knows that. He always seems to sorta muddle through, you know? Oh, he's actually quite endearing in his own goofy, quip-tossing way. But he just doesn't …

OK, some people might blame their surroundings. And Jeff could wave a finger at his messed-up family, which includes a just-shy-of-being-a-drunk mom and a hot-headed dad. Given those tendencies, it's no surprise that the two divorced some time ago. Then there are all Jeff's wild aunts and uncles, hard-partying cousins and friends. Nope: No real role models or models of stability anywhere in the lot.

Still, Jeff knows that they're not the ones to blame. He's the one who never quite shows up when he should. But that's why he's here today. He said he'd be here to wave Erin in with a cheer. And, doggonit, this time he's gonna follow through. This time he'll show up.

Unfortunately, the one time that Jeff shows up, a pair of young Islamic radicals with the surname of Tsarnaev show up, too. They leave behind homemade bombs in the crowd: two explosive devices filled with nails, glass and BBs that blow off both of Jeff's legs when they detonate.

Jeff showed up for Erin.

And his life does indeed change.

Positive Elements

Jeff Bauman is the protagonist of this tale, the real-world figure whom Bostonians rightfully looked to as a heroic Boston Strong symbol in the wake of that foul terrorist attack in 2013.And shortly after the horrific events of that day, Jeff awakens and tells authorities about the suspect he saw, helping them track down the killers.

That said, a man named Carlos is this movie's real hero. He's the guy who ran to help shattered victims, including Jeff, after the terrorists' bombs exploded. Later, he's the person who helps Jeff find a way out of his deep pit of self-pity and despair following the loss of both legs.

Carlos tells Jeff of losing his two sons, one in war and another from suicide. He admits deep regrets about those relationships due to his own selfish choices. "I can't tell you how much I wish I had been there for them when they needed me," he says. But those horrible losses also drove Carlos to make better choices, to help others whenever he could. And his acts of service helped him gain a sense of redemption. "You helped me as much as I helped you," he tells Jeff. "And I came here to say thank you."

Jeff begins to make some changes of his own, even as he learns to walk again with prosthetic legs. And he, in turn, encourages strangers who recognize him from news coverage of the bombing, helping them find a sense of hope to work through their own grief. Erin, for her part, goes to great lengths to support and care for her Jeff (who has indeed become her boyfriend again), even quitting her job to move in and look after him. [Spoiler Warning] After some emotional struggles, Jeff and Erin get married.

Spiritual Content


Sexual Content

After Jeff leaves the hospital, we see him in a bathtub, though rushing water obscures nudity. He falls out of bed and groans in pain, and his mother and aunt (who are outside his door) mistakenly think he's masturbating.

Later, he and Erin renew their relationship, and she moves in with Jeff to care for him. They embrace and fall together into bed. The ensuing lovemaking scene shows her bare back, uncovered rear and some breast nudity. His bare chest is visible, too. We see the couple in bed together covered by bedsheets (but presumably unclothed) on another occasion as well.

Jeff and some friends make several slur-filled comments about his gay manager at work.

Violent Content

Although we don't immediately witness the bombing attack up close, Erin sees the explosions from about a block away. But we do glimpse some of the bloody aftermath, including victims with a variety of wounds, on the street and in the hospital.

Jeff has nightmarish flashbacks about the event. Some of these visuals are quick flashes of bloody carnage and torn flesh. But one extended scene pictures Jeff lying on his back after the explosion with wounded people all around him. His legs are torn and broken, and a bone sticks out grotesquely from a bloody stump. We watch from his point of view as a man ties off his profusely bleeding lower extremities.

Jeff breaks his nose after falling out of bed. He also falls painfully off the toilet and out of a car. Jeff drags his body across a parking lot and hurtles off a swing set while drunk. And he starts a bar fight that includes a number of drunken men beating each other and smashing furniture.

After Jeff and his friends nearly wreck a car while stoned, a policeman approaches them with his weapon drawn. Jeff's mom says she would have committed suicide without Oprah's guidance.

Crude or Profane Language

Some 85 f-words and more than 20 s-words join a couple uses each of "a--," "h---," "b--ch" and "d--n." Jesus' name is misused about a dozen times and God's about seven (five times of which are combined with "d--n").

Drug and Alcohol Content

Jeff, his friends and all his family members drink wine, beer and hard liquor regularly—both before and after the bombing—at bars and at other social events. At least four or five scenes feature this heavily guzzling, often-tipsy crew.

Jeff's mom gets quite drunk on several occasions and is shown passed out at home a couple of times. Jeff and his close friends mix prescription drugs and alcohol at one point and all get incredibly intoxicated. They then set off with Jeff driving a car while his friend pushes the gas and brake pedals for him.

Jeff takes several prescription meds. He passes out in the bathtub at one point. Jeff's mom smokes regularly. We see several others with cigarettes and one man puffing on a cigar.

Other Negative Elements

Crude comments are made referring to body parts that Jeff didn't lose in the attack. Upon hearing that Erin has become pregnant, Jeff immediately rejects any idea of keeping or caring for the baby.

One scene pictures an unconscious Jeff smeared with feces.


The human spirit is resilient. When faced with great loss, personal pain and misery, some will lose their way. Others, though, will fight for a footpath back to life. They'll do all they can with the lot they've been given and reach for a higher purpose.

That's the core message to be found in this real-world Boston Marathon bombing story. And that message—as far as it goes—offers solid encouragement.

Still, director David Gordon Green pulls no punches telling Jeff Bauman's story. Green makes us witnesses to realistic, wince-worthy moments. And sometimes the emotional aftermath of what has happened can be nearly as difficult to watch as the horrific moments of terror themselves. Inspiring as it may be, Stronger never shies away from its painfully traumatic, incredibly profane and alcohol-drenched source material.

It makes for a provocative and emotional acting showcase, and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany take full advantage of it. But it also makes for a two-hour movie experience that's none too easy to sit through.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range





Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman; Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley; Miranda Richardson as Patty Bauman; Clancy Brown as Jeff Bauman Sr.; Frankie Shaw as Gail; Carlos Sanz as Carlos


David Gordon Green ( )


Roadside Attractions



Record Label



In Theaters

September 22, 2017

On Video

December 19, 2017

Year Published



Bob Hoose

Content Caution

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