Boys Don't Cry Rings of Deep Truth on DVD

Hillary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Scarsgard. Directed by Kimberly Pierce. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 116 minutes. 1999. 20th Century Fox 2000173. R. $34.98.

This gripping film is based on the true story of Tina Brandon, who recast herself as Brandon Teena. The film deviates from the truth in several particulars, all minor, and all designed to make the narrative line clearer for the film—not simply a valid choice, but the right one, dramatically speaking.

The story is starkly simple: Uncomfortable as a woman and unable to afford gender-reassignment therapy, Tina Brandon (Hillary Swank) cuts her hair, dresses in jeans and flannel shirts, and shoves a sock down her pants. Thus is born Brandon Teena.

Moving to Falls City, Nebraska, Brandon soon has a new set of friends who accept him as a man. He even has a girlfriend, Lana (Chloë Sevigny). But Brandon's a bit of a con man, and a forged check and some incidents from the past soon land him in jail—where, naturally, he becomes Tina Brandon again.

The last part of the film is painful to watch. Brandon's friends resent the deception, though the girlfriend doesn't—in fact, the film shows Lana's increasing suspicions prior to Brandon's unmasking. Brandon's male buddies exact their revenge with a brutal rape, and one of them ultimately kills Brandon/Tina.

These are the facts. What is remarkable is how skillfully this film tells the story. Hillary Swank's performance is phenomenal. Her pleasure at getting away with being Brandon is palpable, and her enthusiasm for new experience is totally believable. Chloë Sevigny's Lana is the perfect soulmate for Swank's Brandon. She seems blunted from her battles with life—tired of fighting, and ready to take any bliss she can find.

Director Kimberly Pierce has taken this Midwestern gothic and constructed a film that is remarkably nuanced. It's not a happy story, but it's told with such grace and daring that there are perfect moments throughout it that have the ring of truth—deep truth. This remarkable film is worthy of repeated viewings.