A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film contains a lot of potentially upsetting material, and should be reserved for mature teenagers. There is a brutal sexual assault, a graphic murder, and a depiction of an emotionally abusive family. There are several non-violent sex scenes as well, involving the main character, a female-to-male transsexual. And there is plenty of substance abuse (pot and alcohol), petty crime (theft, car chases, forgery, etc.) and strong language, as well as an intense discussion of self-cutting. While the film is sympathetic to Brandon, some characters express strong homophobia sentiments which may be especially disturbing to gay, lesbian or transgendered teens.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
BOYS DON'T CRY is a moving but brutal drama based on the life and death of a young transsexual man, Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank). Biologically female (his given name is Teena Brandon) the almost 21-year old is in trouble. He's got a court date coming up (for stealing a car), and his only friend Brian is sick of his mooching. But Brandon's mind is elsewhere -- he's very successful with the girls in Lincoln, Nebraska. He's not forthcoming to them about his biological gender, and it's clear he likes this risk taking. After getting kicked out of Brian's trailer, Brandon gets involved in a bar fight defending the honor of Candace. He quickly falls in with her crowd, impressed by Eric, the violent and charming leader of the group, and Eric's disaffected "daughter", Lana (Chloe Sevigny). Brandon decides to crash with Candace, basking in the acceptance of his new friends and trying to win Lana over. At first, things are going great, but as Brandon and Lana get closer, his capacity to keep his secret beings to unravel. And when Eric begins to suspect that something is wrong, events spin horrifically out of control.
Is it any good?
Director Kimberly Peirce has made a very good film, neither a bland elegy or a sordid true-crime drama. Brandon comes off as both heroic and troubled, and each supporting character is full-fleshed and sympathetic. Swank's performance is stellar, and earned the actress her first Oscar.
Still, this is mature stuff; we don't recommend this film as a starting point for a discussion about gender or sexuality with your teenager because it's too violent and disturbing. Try lighter fare like The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert or The Incredible True Story of Two Girls in Love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Brandon's sexual identity issues, how he sees himself, and how the people around him react to discovering his secret. Brandon is constantly lying to the people around him; how are the lies about his past and his family different than the "lie" about his gender? Why does he befriend John and Tom so quickly, when it's clear early on that they're dangerous guys?
- In theaters: July 11, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: July 1, 2004
- Cast: Chloe Sevigny, Hilary Swank, Peter Sarsgaard
- Director: Kimberly Peirce
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence including an intense brutal rape scene, sexuality, language and drug use
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.