Co-written by Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen, this poignant drama Boys Don’t Cry tells the story of Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank), a twenty-one-year-old man who was born biologically female under the name of Teena Renae Brandon. In the midst of discovering his gender identity, the protagonist cuts his hair short and changes his clothing in an attempt to see if he can “pass” as a man. This harmless experiment is successful and prompts Brandon to keep his tomboy appearance and continue living as a boy.
After receiving threats due to being transgender and being evicted from his cousin’s trailer, the young man seeks comfort in a bar where he meets and flirts with a woman named Candace (Alicia Goranson). The two travel to Falls City, Nebraska, the girl’s hometown, along with a few other friends – John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard) and Tom Nissen (Brendan Sexton III). Being in the company of his new friends, Brandon meets Candace’s sister, Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny) at a karaoke bar and instantly falls in love with her. As the two grow closer together, Brandon’s hidden past is revealed and the young man is forced to face up to adversity in order to truly and unapologetically be himself.
The film is not only memorable due to the biographical aspects and bravery of Brandon’s character, but also because of the fascinating and honest love story between Brandon and Lana. The two share a gentle, candid bond based on complete acceptance of one another and display a unique relationship that further contrasts and emphasizes the brutality, prejudice and intolerance of Brandon’s alleged friends and the tragic outcome of their hatred.
“Swank’s Brandon is notable for generosity, tenderness and consideration. No wonder the girls respond – there aren’t many men like that in Falls City.”
— Philip French, The Guardian
“The first time I saw the movie, I was completely absorbed by the characters–the deception, the romance, the betrayal. Only later did I fully realize what a great film it is.”
“It reaches out to reveal something about all the lives that Brandon changed forever”
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Did You Know?
In an interview with A.V. Club Kimberly Peirce revealed that she spent more than five years researching the life and death of Teena Brandon for the film Boys Don’t Cry. While in graduate film school Peirce worked on a a thesis script about Pauline Cushman, an African American Civil War figure who has the ability to pass as a man, and became a spy for the Union Army. When Peirce discovered an article in The Village Voice in April 1994 about Teena Brandon and immediately felt that she understood him. Review our Gay Themed Films here