Four noteworthy films highlight LGBT narratives

Penn Harrison

Long before Hilary Swank and Jared Leto won Oscars for honest, powerful portrayals of LGBT characters, many films misrepresented and ignored members of the LGBT community. Below, The Daily Texan compiled four recent films notable for their memorable and artistically astute portrayals of LGBT characters to celebrate LGBTQ History Month.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

In 1993, Teena Brandon changed her name to Brandon Teena, moved to Falls City, Nebraska, and passed as a man for over a year. He made new friends, dated a beautiful girl and enjoyed an adventurous life he couldn’t have lived back home. “Boys Don’t Cry” dramatizes this true story in an exciting romantic drama, which Roger Ebert famously called “‘Romeo and Juliet’ in a Nebraska trailer park.” Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning, gender-bending, breakout performance as Brandon is bold, believable and unforgettable. Even when he suffers unspeakable horrors, Brandon’s courage, resilience and resourcefulness shine. “Boys Don’t Cry” honors his memory and leaves a mark few will forget. 

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

In the summer of 1963, cowboys Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger) fall in love while working a Wyoming ranch. They part ways, marry women and have children, but the unbreakable bond they forged that summer pulls them back together, and they reunite every few years in secret, concealing their affair and their sexualities from their families. Director Ang Lee chronicles a universally sympathetic romance in a beautifully shot epic, proving far more meaningful than the “gay cowboy movie” many simplify it as. “Brokeback Mountain” shows the pain of true love in a society which forbade it and the lasting bond that drove two men to jeopardize their families and lives for each other. 

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) 

Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar for Best Actor in this Texas-set drama as Ron Woodruff, a homophobic, heroin-junkie cowboy whose life is turned upside down when he receives an HIV diagnosis and learns he has 30 days to live. Unable to obtain an experimental drug which could prolong his life, he begins smuggling it from Mexico and starts a business distributing the medicine to other AIDS patients. He forms an unlikely partnership with Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender prostitute and AIDS patient. Leto shared the Oscar stage with McConaughey for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his raw, uninhibited portrayal of Rayon, notably staying in character off-set for all 25 days of filming. “Dallas Buyers Club” is powerful both in its depiction of LGBT characters and moving story of a straight man who overcame his homophobia to help the gay people in his community.

Carol (2015)

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give exquisite performances in this 1950s period piece about a young toy store clerk, Therese (Mara), who falls in love with Carol, an older woman going through a divorce (Blanchett). Early in the film, both women express ambivalence about their sexuality: Carol tries to conceal affairs with women from her jealous husband, and Therese responds to a question about marrying men with “I barely even know what to order for lunch.” Like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Carol” depicts two LGBT characters struggling with heterosexual relationships while hiding their true selves. As soon as Carol and Therese discover their love for one another, they have to hide it — an all-too-common burden for many LGBT people during
that time.