Plot – A young man named Brandon Teena navigates love, life, and being transgender in rural Nebraska – Boys Don’t Cry.
Director – Kimberly Peirce
Released – 1999
Boys Don’t Cry, the debut film of director Kimberly Peirce is a hard movie to enjoy, not just because of the violent conclusion but also how the themes of being true to yourself and courage to love who you desire is tainted by the fact that every character is unlikeable, even Brandon (Swank), who misleads women into sleeping with them by reporting to be a male, something they would later discover wasn’t the truth and these days would be viewed as sexual assault. This, however, makes Boys Don’t Cry one of the most interesting movies of 1999.
Hilary Swank deserves a great deal of credit for her performance, especially as it couldn’t have been an easy role to pull off. Despite knowing that she is biologically female, Swank does a great job of convincing you she is an adolescent male, making it easier for us to accept that other characters would be taken in by this as well.
That’s before getting into how complex Brandon is as a character and despite repeated setbacks, he never gave up on his dream to live as his chosen gender, which should have made this a truly inspirational movie. However, I couldn’t help but find myself strangely untouched by Brandon’s journey and not just because of his problematic actions but also because of often repeated warning that he was playing with fire fell on deaf ears.
Another issue I found with Boys Don’t Cry was just how safe Peirce played it with both the direction and cinematography. Put simply, they are rather uninteresting, presenting Brandon’s story in the most boring way imaginable and because of this, you notice how slow the plot is progressing, especially in the first least half of the movie where very little of note occurs apart from introducing us to a long succession of one-dimensional characters supporting characters and a series of similar-looking drab locations.
Although thought-provoking, all in all, Boys Don’t Cry is let down by an unlikeable principal character surrounded by an underdeveloped supporting cast, boring cinematography and direction, sadly doing a disservice to the memory of Brandon Teena.