Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Main cast: Hilary Swank (Teena/Brandon), ChloŽ Sevigny (Lana), Alicia Goranson (Candace), Peter Sarsgaard (John), and Brendan Sexton III (Tom)
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Oh dear. This is a traumatic tragedy of a movie, a fictionalized account of the actual rape and murder of a young girl, Teena Brandon, who masquerades as a boy called Brandon. Boys Don't Cry is a wonderfully unsentimental and frank story about a girl whose only fault is to be born in 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. I think he's just a sexually confused person.
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 sexual ambiguity well. The end can only be a tragedy.
Having worked with people about to undergo sex-change or has underwent one in my endocrinology studies, I must say Brandon's sometimes seemingly-extreme need to be a male is just.. well, normal. His fault is in his ignorance about how actually the male-male dynamics work, not surprising considering his background. Brandon's misconception that to be a man means accepting dares - any dares - and flirting with the reckless and impetous side of life would only cost him his life. BDC isn't an easy movie to watch, for 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 most wonderful gem isn't Swank, however, although she does a magnificent job. It's Sevigny. Lana is a woman who suspects that her "boyfriend" is a woman, but she is desperate enough to find some semblence 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.
Yes, BDC is a wonderful movie. Not one I would buy on video and watch again and again - I'm not that depressive - 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 light a candle for them the next time I'm in church.
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