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From the May 2000
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars

Oscar-winner: coverage here

Chloe Sevigny and Oscar-winner Hilary Swank - Boy's Don't Cry
Secret identity

STARS: Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgåard, Brendan Sexton III, Alison Folland
DIRECTOR: Kimberly Peirce
SCREENPLAY: Kimberly Peirce
and Andy Bienen

CERTIFICATE: 18DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: 20th Century Fox
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 54 mins

There are two remarkable stories being told here. One is the tale of Brandon Teena, an attractive, fun-loving teenager who was hiding a considerable secret from his girlfriend and friends. Despite the short hair, boyish face and heady air of masculinity, the name on Brandon’s birth certificate was Teena Brandon and without any sort of cosmetic alterations, she was enjoying life as a free-spirited male.

The other is the change in fortunes of actress Hilary Swank. Making her starring début in The Next Karate Kid and appearing in third-rate dross like Sometimes They Come Back… Again, Swank’s CV offered nothing to suggest that one day she’d be picking up a Golden Globe and be battling it out (successfully) for an Oscar.

Swank’s new-found credibility is fully justified. Her outstanding performance – engaging, charismatic and buoyed by a genuine feeling of unshackled exhilaration – illuminates the movie. Although we’re privy to Brandon’s feminine identity from the start, Swank inhabits the role so convincingly, that not once do you find yourself questioning why nobody cottoned on earlier to her massive deception.

Set mostly in the nocturnal hours of a romanticized rural America (the characters are often lit with a heavenly glow) Boys Don’t Cry narrates Brandon’s story with warmth and integrity. Director and co-writer Peirce has spent five years researching Brandon’s life and every facet of his relationship with girlfriend Lana (Sevigny, exceptional too) and their troubled, hot-headed friends John (Sarsgåard) and Tom (Sexton III). The result is a fascinating, thought-provoking character study, carrying a considerable emotional charge which is triggered by the film’s tragic final chapter.

What is perhaps most admirable about Peirce’s movie is that, despite the potentially sensationalistic material, this is not a mere tabloid representation of Brandon’s life, instead the subject is treated respectfully and with a sense of fondness. Even later on, when Brandon’s secret is uncovered and time-bombs John and Tom finally explode, Peirce presents these uncomfortable scenes as tastefully as possible, while still presenting the full horror of the situation.

Ultimately a movie tinged with sadness, Peirce, Swank and Sevigny have nevertheless pulled out all the stops to create an affecting and effective celebration of Brandon Teena’s extraordinary story.

Jason Caro

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars
ERIN BROCKOVICH • released April 7


5 Stars
April 14 • Once Upon a Time
in the West
March 17 • A Clockwork Orange
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April 07 • Brother
April 21 • Cradle Will Rock

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American PsychoApril 21
Galaxy Quest • April 28
Love, Honour and Obey • April 07
Up at the Villa • April 14
Ghost Dog : Way of the SamuraiApril 28