Boys Don't Cry

Boys Don't Cry


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Hilary Swank is too beautiful for this role. "You've got the tiniest hands," John (Peter Sarsgaard) says at the bar. "Joe Louis had the tiniest hands," Brandon replies. Sure, but Joe Louis didn't have perfect skin and a willow figure.

These guys from Nebraska must have been stoned, or drunk, not to ask themselves, "Why's this kid from Lincoln the prettiest little thing?" If they did, the question of gender would cloud their judgement and they'd think, "Sheet, am I homo pervert sexual?", which couldn't ever be, because faggots and dykes have no chance of waking well in Falls City.

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Kimberly Peirce has taken a newspaper story and given it style. Her sympathies are with Brandon, the boy in a girl's body, who used to be called Teena and had a history of theft and other offences back home.

To get away, he hitches to Falls, a scrag flat country town with a trailer park mentality and nothing to do but tell stories and drink beer. Brandon meets Lena (Chloe Sevigny), who lives with her alcoholic mother (Jeannetta Arnette) and sometimes John, a once glamorous teenage criminal, who hangs out in a loser crowd and enjoys the illusion of being the man with a plan, although there is no plan.

Lena hates the futility of her life. She hates the stupidity of her factory job and the acceptable male supremacy that dominates the mindset of these mental throwbacks. She doesn't know what she wants, as long as it isn't this, and she hates her mom, too.

Brandon is different. He is attentive and gentle and fun to be with. He kisses real good and makes love like he knows what a woman wants. He's 21 and she whispers, "Yes, yes..." John is jealous. He thinks there's something sick about this kid. It makes him mad.

Brandon's secret is Teena's fear. It hangs there. Peirce directs with admirable disregard for the soft option. Feelings have wings that are torn off by ignorance.

Swank is hardly a man. Her body language has a softer accent, although she takes the punches. Sevigny is even more surprising, so close to the centre of someone who recognises disappointment as the natural state of an emotionally deprived childhood. When love touches Lena, Sevigny never drops her guard, as if happy-ever-afters are an invention from another world.

In Falls City, you don't play games with sex. Either you take it when you need it, or you shut up and shoot pool.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Boys Don't Cry packshot
The story of a transgender teen.
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Director: Kimberly Peirce

Writer: Kimberly Peirce, Andy Bienen

Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendon Sexton III, Jeanneta Arnette

Year: 1999

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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