Identity crisis

Boys Don't Cry, unless he's a she in this heart-wrenching true tale

And in many ways, Boys Don't Cry is as much Lana's story as Brandon's, lingering over the depressing details of her home life and the cheap-high thrills of her and her friends, as they numb themselves in almost every scene with everything from bongs and bourbon to aerosol cans. Lana's mom (Jeannetta Arnette) seems to be mother to everyone in the film -- that's what they all call her anyway -- though she doesn't do much to deserve that title, gulping shots of whiskey for breakfast and coming on to all of her daughter's male friends. Not too hard to see why Lana takes to Brandon so quickly: She just wants someone to love her, and more important, pay attention to her.

Sevigny subtly lets on that Brandon didn't fool everyone in Falls City, doing with a slight change of expression what most actors can't do with a half-page monologue. Perhaps the best moment of the film is when Lana is recounting her night with Brandon to her dead-end friends Candace and Kate (Alison Folland). As she tells Candace and Kate an innocent story of walking and talking, the camera reveals what really happened, cutting between Lana's glassy-eyed confession and her dead-sober confusion when she spies Brandon's bound cleavage as they make love. When she smiles to herself after finishing her recap of the evening, it's clear that Lana knows everything -- maybe too much -- but the only thing that matters is that she loves him. It's such a tender scene that it makes everything that happens after it all the more heartbreaking.

Unconditional love: Chloe Sevigny, left, and Hilary Swank are the doomed couple in Kimberly Peirce's Boys Don't Cry.
Unconditional love: Chloe Sevigny, left, and Hilary Swank are the doomed couple in Kimberly Peirce's Boys Don't Cry.

Details

Starring Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III, and Alison Folland

Opens October 22

Official site

Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Written by Peirce and Andy Bienen

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Not that the film's final 20 minutes need much help in that area. Even though Lana doesn't care, everyone else does, and when Brandon's secret is finally revealed, it sets off a chain of events that are grimly, painfully real. Brandon's past and present collide so intensely, it's difficult to watch, a knockout punch that you see coming but weren't expecting to hit quite so hard. That's possibly Peirce's best trick of all, telling a true story so well that you can't remember how it ends. And when you remember, you hope that you were wrong.

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