Bauman had gone to the finish line to wait for his on/off girlfriend Erin, Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black (TV), Picture Day), who was running the marathon.
Bauman saw the bomber, who walked past him at one point, and helped the FBI with a description of him whilst in hospital. He was instantly held up as a hero when a photo of him and Carlos, Carlos Sanz (Crank, Runner Runner), the man who wrapped bandages around his legs, went viral.
With this new-found celebrity and having to cope with bickering divorced parents, trying to rectifying things with Erin and the loss of his legs, Bauman struggles. He drinks heavily, lashes out and fails to turn up to his physio appointments.
When Erin announces she’s pregnant, Bauman freaks out and she leaves. At rock bottom, Bauman decides to meet with Carlos who was at the marathon handing out flags in memory of his two sons, one who was killed in Iraq and the other who took his own life.
This sparks Bauman into getting himself together and gives him the determination to get up on the $200,000 prosthetic legs he’s purchased with the help of various charities and a GoFundMe page.
John Pollono (Nathan Grimm (Short), Return Of The Sun Devil (Short)) is the man who has penned the screenplay from Jeff Bauman’s own book.
The story is incredibly emotional and tugs at the heart strings on many occasions. There’s a danger of things getting to saccharine but Pollono steers it away from that, for the most part, in truth mainly because Bauman has a wicked sense of humour and isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself.
Gyllenhaal plays Bauman perfectly. There are moments of fun and laughter, of Bauman off the rails, anger, pain, suffering, just every emotion you can think of. Gyllenhaal handles them all with aplomb, intense when he needs to be, funny when required and emotional at all the right times.
Maslany is the girlfriend trying to keep her self together, not quite sure what to do, how to be, the couple had split-up a little before the bombing. She more than holds her own against Gyllenhaal’s performance, reacting to him brilliantly.
Miranda Richardson (The Hours, The Crying Game) brilliantly plays Bauman’s mother. Divorced from the father and partial to a drink or three. She’s an all-consuming, overbearing, ball of energy who, obviously, wants the best for her son but doesn’t always get that right.
The only part that feels a little much is the scene after Bauman throws the ball at a Red Sox game.
Members of the public surround him and begin telling him about the problems in their life, things they’ve gone through. It’s apparently things that have happened to Bauman but not all at once in such a compressed timeline.
Director David Gordon Green (Your Highness, Pineapple Express) handles things very well. It all feels very natural, that is apart from the obvious missing legs, which, together with Gyllenhaal’s performance, is jaw-dropping use of CGI.
Green initially shoots things with lots of blurry backgrounds and blurry details, showing us how little Bauman wants to know, how little he wants to be part of this new life.
Later though, things become sharper, more focussed. It’s a lovely touch to what is a beautiful film.