Note: to talk about this film critically, I am going to need to reveal all of the major plot points; therefore, if you don’t know the twist and don’t want to, I suggest avoiding this review. Also, I’m not entirely sure how to define the core relationship, so I apologize if there are any “grammatical” errors in that regard.
The Crying Game is a film so heavily based on its reputation that it’s difficult to look at it in a normal sense. In fact, my opinion has changed drastically since I finished watching it. I was underwhelmed on the original watch (and still am, but more on that later), and that’s due to the hype about the twist. There’s plenty more to this film, including some social problems that are addressed head on, as well as a homosexual relationship that is very intriguing.
The movie centers on Fergus (Stephen Rea), but not originally. We are introduced to Jody (Forest Whitaker), a British soldier, who is kidnapped by Jude (Miranda Richardson), Fergus, and other IRA terrorists. Jody is set up as the main character, although that’s gone once he’s killed thirty minutes into the film by a tank. The story then jumps to Fergus as he visits Dil (Jaye Davidson), Jody’s girlfriend, who he begins to fall in love with. Sure enough, it’s revealed that Dil is a male transvestite, which confuses Fergus and causes many problems between them.
First, let me just say this: this film is incredibly complex, and I’m not going to be able to address everything in the film. There are so many elements that I feel the need to address, but I’ll do my best to focus on the main ones. For example, the beginning scenes between Fergus and Jody had a homosexual undertone for me, but maybe that’s just something I saw. There’s no way that Jody didn’t know about Dil, which makes me believe that he is gay. Therefore, those scenes now can be looked upon as Fergus almost guiding himself into homosexuality (since the film seems to make that idea apparent, especially in the final scenes). I know, it’s a controversial statement, but the film almost states that homosexuality is a thing that can be acquired.
I knew the “twist” as soon as I saw Dil; she just looked too much like a man to make me believe so. Plus, the place she worked at was “Metro”, she was flat-chested, and she had masculine features with excessive makeup. It was pretty apparent that she was a transvestite, but that didn’t make the reveal any less shocking. In fact, the idea of showing a penis was virtually nonexistent in films in 1992, and the movie almost made fun of that early on. We don’t see Jody peeing when he does so both times, since it’s been obscured, and there’s almost an assurance that we won’t have to see a penis throughout any of the film. That moment arrives, though, and the directing there is masterful; it’s revealed in the most shocking way it could’ve been, even if it was slightly predictable on my part.
The fact that Fergus begins to accept Dil throughout the film is even more surprising; instead of creating this transvestite character as a villain (which wouldn’t be surprising for today’s mainstream media), they make her sympathetic. In fact, the feminine woman, Jude, is killed by Dil, a feminine man, which creates an even odder dichotomy. That’s one of the most intriguing things about this film; it never tries to create a normal situation, and tries almost too hard to paint homosexuality, masculinity, and occasionally racism in different lights.
Race is also prominent in the film, in that a white, heterosexual man falls in love with a black, homosexual man. That’s once again something not often seen, even in today’s films, so it’s refreshing to see that type of portrait painted. That relationship is portrayed wonderfully by Rea and Davidson, both of whom could’ve created their characters in slightly different ways and they would’ve been worse. They do so much better than they should’ve, helping the relationship work even more, and making us legitimately care about these characters.
The Crying Game was nominated for numerous Academy Awards in 1993, and won Best Original Screenplay. It’s a remarkable film, one that I’ve begun to appreciate more now that I’ve thought about it more. Still, it’s a perplexing film that relies largely on a twist (for development in plot and character), which could hurt it, but doesn’t. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a pretty good one that stays unpredictable and unique throughout.