PLAY AT YOUR OWN RISK.
In the beginning, this film had a hard time finding an audience in Britain. Opening in October 1992, London had suffered unusually many terrorist attacks and neither the press nor the public seemed willing to accept a sympathetic portrait of an IRA terrorist. When The Crying Game opened in the U.S., the reception was different. Critics weren’t directly affected by the Troubles and could see the story for what it was – an exciting, touching and very original thriller/romance. A twist also made a huge difference.
In Northern Ireland, Jody (Forest Whitaker), a British soldier, is kidnapped by the IRA after having been set up by Jude (Miranda Richardson). She, her lover Fergus (Stephen Rea) and the team leader (Adrian Dunbar) bring Jody to a safe house in the woods and demand from the authorities the release of jailed IRA members or the soldier will be executed. Fergus spends a lot of time guarding Jody and a bond grows between them, eventually leading Fergus to promise Jody that if he’s killed Fergus will visit his girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson).
After an incident that leaves Jody dead, Fergus escapes British troops and establishes a new, discreet life in London. He tracks down Dil, who works at a hair salon and as a nightclub singer, and is taken by her. But Fergus was not the only one who survived the Northern Ireland event…
The twist caused problems
Neil Jordan had been working on this script for quite some time, originally naming it “The Soldier’s Wife”, changing it only after Stanley Kubrick allegedly told him that it wasn’t a very commercial title and that people would think it’s a war movie. Jordan also ran into problems with funding because of the twist. This is where I have to spoil things and reveal it, otherwise it’s impossible to discuss the movie properly. Dil turns out to be a transsexual, and studios did not believe it was possible to cast that role convincingly. That was before Jaye Davidson was discovered, a 24-year-old androgynous man with no acting experience, but who truly became Dil, fooling audiences all over the world.
The twist became a sensation at a time when transsexuals were rarely seen onscreen. Over the years, there has been criticism of how transsexualism is used in the film as a trick to amuse straight audiences, and Fergus’s initial, disgusted reaction after learning the truth is off-putting in every way. But it’s important to remember that Jordan’s interest in unconventional love and sexual relationships has always been a compelling part of his work, and it’s both believable and touching how the romance between Fergus and Dil evolves in this film, against all odds. What starts out as a conventional thriller about the Northern Ireland crisis, a subject Jordan would return to later in his career, segues into a different story in a way that is so clever, maintaining its distinct style and sentiment even as everything else changes. Not many films that have attempted to do the same have gotten away with it as impressively as this one.
The cast is equally brilliant, with Rea and Whitaker as two sensitive men on opposite sides. Davidson certainly gives no impression of being an amateur; this is an unforgettable performance.
Music plays a very important part in the film, from the haunting way “When a Man Loves a Woman” is used in the opening sequence to the way the old 1960s tune that gives this movie its title becomes Dil’s signature theme at the nightclub. The song, turned into a chart hit by Boy George after the release of the film, lends The Crying Game its ominously dark and romantic tone.
The Crying Game 1992-Britain. 112 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Stephen Woolley. Written and directed by Neil Jordan. Cast: Stephen Rea (Fergus), Miranda Richardson (Jude), Forest Whitaker (Jody), Jaye Davidson (Dil), Jim Broadbent, Ralph Brown.
Oscar: Best Original Screenplay. BAFTA: Best British Film.
Last word: “There was so little money to make that film that it was very, very difficult. I suppose it’s very hard to remember. There was a sense that we were doing something quite special in a way because of all the themes – the combination of politics and sexuality and gender issues, but it was really stripped down to a bone almost. What I do remember is how difficult it was to get it up off the ground.” (Jordan, IFTN)