Flicking through the movie channels in the mood for something ‘different’ I stumbled on the 1999 Kimberly Pierce film, Boys Don’t Cry. I knew little about the film but remembered that Hillary Swank had scooped an Oscar for Best Actress and that she played the part of a man…or so I thought.
Swank actually plays a young woman, Teena Brandon who suffers from a sexual identity crisis and so portrays herself as a man. The film depicts the true story of Brandon’s battle with his own reality, his life in Falls City and his relationship with a small group of friends.
With no real expectations I gave it a shot and over the ensuing 118 minutes witnessed a good film, but a performance by Swank which was nothing short of stunning. The Oscar winner submerged herself in the role and shows a level of commitment which one might not expect from some of Hollywood’s household names. Among the most challenging scenes included a double rape encounter and a lesbian love scene. Swank doesn’t shy away these obstacles allowing for a most unflattering and disturbing portrayal of Brandon’s suffering under the prejudice of middle America in the late 1980’s.
The film is not an easy watch by anyone’s standards and the knowledge that it’s a true story makes it all the harder. If you can bare the darkness of the story and its explicit scenes then it’s worth watching to see Swank transform herself into Brandon Teena and give an emotionally stirring performance worthy of any accolade it gets.