Main cast: Hilary Swank (Brandon Teena), Chloë Sevigny (Lana Tisdel), Alicia Goranson (Candace), Peter Sarsgaard (John Lotter), and Brendan Sexton III (Marvin “Tom” Nissen)
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Boys Don’t Cry is a fictionalized account of the actual rape and murder of a young girl, Teena Brandon, who masquerades as a boy called Brandon. It is a wonderfully unsentimental and frank story about a man whose only fault is to be born as the wrong sex.
Actually Brandon – let’s do Teena a favor and calls her by her preferred gender pronoun – lives on the run from town to town, stealing and doing anything to survive. His only thrill comes from acting as a boy and picking up young girls. However, he doesn’t describe himself as a lesbian and I can’t help but to agree. He’s just born in the wrong body.
A sex change operation is beyond the reach of his meager pockets, but that doesn’t stop him from joining a crowd of no-good ne’er-do-well led by John. And when Brandon falls for Lana, things look good for a while. But Brandon is playing with fire – his friends are not those who accept his masquerade well. The end can only be a tragedy.
Poor Brandon’s fatal flaw is his ignorance about how actually the male-male dynamics work, not surprising considering his background. He believes that, to be a man, it means accepting dares – any dares – and flirting with the reckless and impetuous side of life. Boys Don’t Cry isn’t an easy movie to watch, for Hilary Swank’s portrayal of Brandon, stark, blunt, and brilliant, is only a catharsis for the shock and horror I would feel when things eventually get really ugly. And after the horror and outrage, grief. Sometimes I forget the world can be a really screwed-up place, and if the world is ideal like we all want to be, Brandon would have lived and he would have received financial aid for a sex-change operation. If only.
The film’s MVP isn’t Ms Swank, however, although she does a magnificent job. It’s Chloë Sevigny. This movie version of Lana is a woman who suspects that her “boyfriend” is a woman, but she is desperate enough to find some semblance of normalcy and happiness in her life that she is willing to pretend otherwise. This woman lives in a family where the word “dysfunction” takes on a new level of meaning, and when Brandon gives her a rose, it is a new and wonderful feeling for her that she refuses to let go of. And while Brandon’s suffering ends at the end of the movie, hers would only continue. The poor girl would have to live with the hatred and violence she witnessed on the first person she loves. My heart really breaks for her, and wish her all the best in her life, and hopes she can learn to love and feel again. The real Lana claims that the movie greatly misrepresented her role in Brandon’s life – she broke off the relationship but remained friends with Brandon once she discovered Brandon’s masquerade, but that’s why I said earlier that this is a fictionalized drama based on a real life story.
Yes, Boys Don’t Cry is a wonderful movie. Not one I would buy on video and watch again and again – I’m not that masochistic – but I have no regret watching it. Yes, life can be vicious and cruel. But for one moment in life, Brandon and Lana were happy. I can take comfort in that and the fact that this movie once again shines the spotlight on how society needs to adjust the way it looks at transsexuals and hate crimes.