Review: The Crying Game (1992)

Just who are we, really? Many of us remain mysterious even to ourselves. We do not really know who we are because our mettle has never been put to the test. Instead, we lead comfortable lives safe in our cocoons. Others take chances in life and in the process discover just whom they are. That is the premise of The Crying Game (1992).

Fergus is a dutiful Catholic living in Northern Ireland who joined the Irish Republican Army. He thinks he knows who he is. It is not until he gets embroiled in the kidnapping of a British soldier (Jody, played by Forest Whitaker) and is required to kill the soldier to prove his mettle that his true nature is revealed at last.

Unfortunately, joining the IRA is a bit like joining the Mafia. You cannot just quietly resign. You are tied to the IRA for life. The kidnapping goes badly awry. His victim ends up dead anyhow when he is run over by a British Army truck during an escape. The British Army, which has been tracking them, discovers their hideout and violently destroys it along with seemingly everyone else engaged in this plot. Fergus is lucky to escape with his life. He moves to London in the hopes of escaping the IRA and his own trauma. Yet he remains haunted by the British soldier that he came to know. He carries Jody’s wallet with him. It contains a picture of his British girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson). Jody figures that he will be killed. He begs Fergus to look up his girlfriend and tell her that he loves her.

Not coincidentally, Fergus ends up doing construction work in London not far from the beauty salon where Dil works. He is too embarrassed to tell her of his relationship with Jody, but does have her cut his hair. He then follows her to a pub where she sings after hours. Perhaps in reaction to the shabby way the IRA treated Jody, he feels protective of her. When an abusive man enters her life, he steps in to protect her. A relationship develops, but Fergus, like the rest of us, is clueless that Dil is no ordinary woman. In fact, she is not a woman at all. She is a transvestite, which Fergus discovers in the worst possible way.

As if dealing for his feelings for Dil were not enough, the IRA tracks him down in London. Against his will, they involve him in the assassination of a British official. They learn of Dil and use his relationship with him as leverage. Fergus discovers that Dil may be a guy, but he cares deeply for Dil. He does his best to protect him. Dil may not be a woman, but he is a special wounded soul. Fergus feels the need to protect him, not just as penance for his role in Jody’s abduction and death, but because there is something worthy of cherishing.

In short, this is a movie full of surprises. Fergus’s character is stretched like so much Silly Putty. He unwillingly learns a lot about who he is in a very short time. His real values are quite different from those he has espoused. He may have been caught in the political firestorm for Irish unification, but his essence is to be a loving and healing man.

This was a challenging movie to film and direct. It is also a difficult film to watch, because it is full of violence and uncomfortable sexual situations. It is full of wonderful character actors including Jim Broadbent, as the pub’s bartender and Miranda Richardson as Jude, the pretty yet fanatical IRA lieutenant. This is not entertainment. The Crying Game is meant to make you think and challenge your predispositions. It succeeds.

The Crying Game won two Oscars for Neil Jordan, its screenwriter and director. There is nothing particularly fancy about the movie. Like the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, The Crying Game is really about discovering the depth and breadth of one human soul. Occasionally, as in Ferguson’s case, his soul is far more expansive and caring than he could even begin to grasp.

I rate the movie 3.2 on my 4.0 scale.

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