Based on actual events. Brandon Teena is the popular new guy in a tiny Nebraska town. He hangs out with the guys, drinking, cussing, and bumper surfing, and he charms the young women, who've never met a more sensitive and considerate young man. Life is good for Brandon, now that he's one of the guys and dating hometown beauty Lana; however, he's forgotten to mention one important detail. It's not that he's wanted in another town for GTA and other assorted crimes, but that Brandon Teena was actually born a woman named Teena Brandon. When his best friends make this discovery, Brandon's life is ripped apart. Written by
This film could be easily dismissed, given its subject, as a "lesbian love story" or, as some called it, a "chick-with-a-d*ck-flick" (actually, that's what they said of Transamerica, but in a way it works for this one, too). Those definitions are disrespectful and very reductive. Boys Don't Cry is one of the most gripping and brutal dramas ever made, and it stands the test of time thanks to its audacity and its brilliant central performance, courtesy of the heartbreaking Hilary Swank.
Swank stars as Teena Brandon, a 20-year old girl from Lincoln, Nebraska, who's right in the middle of a "sexual identity crisis" (her own words). This crisis causes her some trouble with the law, and she decides to run away, more specifically to Falls City. Once there, she starts a new life, with a new name (Brandon Teen), a new haircut and socks down her pants. It's under these circumstances that she meets Lana (Chloe Sevigny), who will begin a passionate relationship with Brandon, unaware of "his" real nature. But what's gonna happen when the truth leaks out?
On the surface, Boys Don't Cry could sound like a simple "lesbian flick", but that would be like saying American History X is just about skinheads. True, this film is about love, but it's also a careful, unflinching study of identity, hope and fear. The last one plays a significant part in the third act, as some of the characters' (most notably John, cunningly played by Peter Sarsgaard) fear of something they don't understand will have tragic consequences.
Director Kimberly Peirce tells this painful true story without judging anyone, so that the performances can speak for themselves: Swank is staggering in a role rivaled only by her equally tear-inducing turn in Million Dollar Baby (she deservedly won an Oscar for both performances). She makes Brandon appear like a human being, not a freak, and that makes her story even more uncomfortable to watch in certain parts. The supporting players excel as well, Sevigny (who was Oscar-nominated for the role of Lana) and Sarsgaard delivering the first of many riveting contributions to independent cinema.
Consistently moving, occasionally hard to watch (there's a rape scene which might upset the weak of stomach), Boys Don't Cry is a daring, powerful effort that demands to be seen. And despite its title, it's very likely to make all audiences shed a tear, no matter the gender or inclination. This is a movie that won't leave you indifferent.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?