Stronger

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“Joe”)
Written by: John Pollono (debut)

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is given the cinematic treatment for the second time in two years and done so, once again, with heart and sensitivity for everyone involved in the fateful day. While last year’s “Patriots’ Day” focused on the crime itself and what it took to bring a pair of terrorists to justice, the drama “Stronger” takes a more humanistic approach with the story of one man whose life was changed forever in the blink of an eye. It’s a touching look at a personal fight for survival and how the idea of heroism is viewed during a national tragedy to lift up those who have been broken.

Academy Award-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”) stars as Jeff Bauman, an average Bostonian who was present at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 cheering for his on-again, off-again girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) when two bombs detonated in the crowd. When the smoke settled, it is revealed that Jeff has lost both his legs in one of the blasts. In an uphill physical and emotional battle, Jeff must learn how to live with his handicap all while reliving a day he would like to forget by reluctantly taking on the role of “hero” christened on him by a city in desperate need of inspiration.

Moviegoers are given that sense of hopefulness from Jeff’s story with Gyllenhaal’s subtle and vulnerable performance. Luckily, with director David Gordon Green (“Joe”) behind the camera, the storytelling strays from becoming too melodramatic or sappy. While Gyllenhaal doesn’t command the screen like in a lot of his previous work, the character feels meaningful and resonant. As Jeff’s supportive (ex)-girlfriend, Maslany from stands out with conviction in her most accessible film to date. It’s not a role that allows her much range like she has on her TV series “Orphan Black” where she plays a handful of different clones, but Maslany captures something beautiful in the way she exudes love and frustration as a sympathetic caretaker.

By confronting the more painful aspects of Jeff’s narrative, Green and first-time screenwriter John Pollono give audiences more than the cliché tropes that we would normally see in a film that could’ve easily been denigrated to Movie of the Week levels. Instead, “Stronger” is intimate, tender and heartbreaking in just the right amounts.

Made in Dagenham

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson
Directed by: Nigel Cole (“Calendar Girls”)
Written by: William Ivory (debut)

As the credits roll in the pleasant-enough drama “Made in Dagenham,” archive footage is shown of the real English women who stood up for their rights as workers at the Ford Motor Company in their hometown during the 60s. Director Nigel Cole’s (“Calendar Girls”) assessment of the historical event shoehorned into a two-hour crowd-pleaser ended just fine, but there was something sorely missing from the final product – a little edge.

Even a hint of genuine rawness would have given the bubbly “Dagenham” a much-needed nudge away from the melodramatic elements it uses as a crutch. While the film hoped to evoke thoughts of “Norma Rae” or even the more recent “North Country,” “Dagenham” is merely dainty in its delivery.

Still, the most impressive things about “Dagenham” are the actresses that inhabit these real-life characters. Sally Hawkins plays Rita O’Grady, a Ford employee who leads her female co-workers against the manufacturer to get them to fix the factory’s poor working conditions (the women sew upholstery for the cars and usually do it in their unmentionables because they are without air conditioning). Soon, Rita and the gals – with the help of a sympathetic union leader (Bob Hoskins) – become more confident and decide to go on strike until Ford agrees to pay them the same wage as male employees.

As much inspirational fervor you find behind the women’s intentions, there is also a patronizing tone that lingers throughout much of the second half of the film. Credit most of these tacky, TV-sitcom moments (“Way to go honey!”) to first-time screenwriter William Ivory, who is far more interested in patting these women on the back than he is giving them a sense of empowerment that cuts deeper than the cautious script allows.