Boys Don't Cry
directed by Kimberly Peirce
(Fox Searchlight, 1999)

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I lived for a couple of years in Omaha, Nebraska. While there I came out of the closet, hung out in gay bars and knew a lot of people. It is strange to think that I might have met Brandon Teena, that we might have known the same people, that we might have been friends. Boys Don't Cry is set in a familiar place, among familiar people and even tells a familiar story -- one of homophobia, of being different and not knowing how to deal with it, of pain and love and, in the end, of the death of a young person lost in the world.

The plot centers around Brandon's "sexual identity crisis," being biologically female but feeling male. He meets a group of friends from a small Nebraska town and falls in love with a girl named Lana. Lies and trouble with the law soon expose his secret and his new friends turn on him.

Brandon is played with absolute conviction by actress Hilary Swank. Her perfomance is stunning, she really seems to have become Brandon. Several of the scenes were nearly impossible to watch, such real pain is evoked.

I don't know that I can say much more than this. Boys Don't Cry is intense and painful. Knowing the outcome doesn't make it any easier to watch. Amazing perfomances, especially by Swank and Chloe Sevigny (Lana) drew me in, making my heart ache for kids like Brandon. This is a true story that deserved to be told; to see it told so well is a joy.

[ by Ziya Reynolds ]

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