I watched Boys Don’t Cry for the first time last night. Written and directed by Kimberly Peirce, the film is a sobering biopic on the last few weeks of Teena Brandon. Played by an androgynous Hilary Swank, Brandon was a troubled young woman with dreams of becoming a transsexual man. Ingratiating herself into a group of small-town Nebraskan kids as Brandon Teena, she soon cultivates a romantic relationship with Lana, a doe-eyed beauty (Chloë Sevigny). When Brandon’s new clique uncover the truth, they brutally rape and murder her in cold blood.
While the film’s subject matter is tragic and morose, Peirce communicates the humanity of its characters with great care. “Maybe it’s because I’m a queer person, or maybe it’s because I’m a human being, but I love Brandon so much.” I found myself growing uncomfortable as I sat in Brandon's shoes. Her inability to tell the truth for fear of repercussion was deeply unsettling.
As a direct result of her choices, Brandon seems to be drowning in denial. She is an outlaw, a juvenile delinquent fast approaching her twenty-first birthday with a laundry list of past criminal offenses. Swank does an incredible job of communicating this burden and her inner conflict. With dreams of saving up enough money to undergo a sex-change operation, all she really wants is to be validated for the person she sees in the reflection.
The romance between Swank and Sevigny is especially touching. There is an ineffable chemistry between them, a genuine innocence that speaks to the power of young love. When Lana uncovers Brandon's hidden secret, her love and devotion intensifies. She intrinsically understands the inner turmoil that boils inside of Brandon.
I'd like to believe we've come a long way since these horrific events. The truth remains however that ignorance breeds fear which gives rise to prejudice and intolerance. If we don't have the courage to stand up to the darkness within, history is doomed to repeat itself ad infinitum.