Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Review

Directed by: Kimberly Peirce

Written by: Kimberly Peirce

Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 58m

Genre: Biography, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

A young man named Brandon Teena navigates love, life, and being transgender in rural Nebraska. (IMDb)

Boys Don’t Cry is one of those fantastic films that you can only watch once. It’s also one of those fantastic films, that while they are great, they don’t hold up to modern ideals and would likely suffer in the modern market for one reason or another.

Hilary Swank plays a transgender man trying to live his life in Nebraska. Swank really shines in this role, portraying the struggle a struggle to fit in as well as real terror in the horribly true* events that unfold. Her dedication to the character only elevating the film. If the film were released today, I’m not entirely sure Swank could have maintained her role as Teena, being a cis-gendered woman. But when taking into the consideration the events of this film and the story of its production– and my self being cis-gendered– I do not feel it is my place to discuss the representation in this film at length. All I feel comfortable saying that the presentation of a transgendered individual and the depiction of their often horrific struggles this film may have been ahead of its time; and puts forth the violent and heartwrenching truth that still burdens us today. 

For many, this film may be an impossible watch. Its thrusts it’s viewers into the harsh reality of this world and how it treats members of the LBGT+ community. You know something is going to go horribly wrong, foreshadowing shown in things as simple as the lighting. 

I’m hesitant to recommend this film even though I’ve described it as “fantastic” and “great.” As I said, for some this movie will be impossible to sit all the way through; for others, it will be a hard ride. It truly is one of those films you watch once, and it stays with you forever. If you decided to watch this film do so at your own discretion, as trigger warning include, violence, a depiction of sexual assault, and death. 

The violence depicted in Boys Don’t Cry continues today, and the only way to stop it is through action. I have provided likes below for three organizations that work to provide protection and support for the transgender community. Additionally, I have included an article discussing violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming community, which includes names of victims of said violence. Shall we mourn the loss of these individuals, educate ourselves on their struggles, and work to end this violence. 

National Center for Transgender Equality

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)

Trans Lifeline

Violence Against the Transgender and the Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020 (article)

*There is debate regarding the accuracy of the film in relation to real-life events. Regardless, the events depicted are very much real possibilities many face on a daily basis.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

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