Analyzing The Crying Game is just about the easiest thing to do in the world of film criticism if you are among that small crowd not already intimately familiar with the film’s controversial narrative. Spoiler alert: the controversy surrounding The Crying Game is that it is about not only a love story that takes place between a white man and a black woman, but an Irish terrorist and a British hairdresser. And there you have it. That’s what all the fuss is about. So pop in the DVD or Blu-Ray or punch in whatever streaming service is currently carrying the film, sit back and relax and enjoy the controversial love story of mixed race and mix nationalities hot burning love.
Okay, now here’s the real skinny on The Crying Game. This film is an example of why The Sixth Sense is a really, truly, horrifically badly directed film. Were you one of the tens of millions of people who apparently never noticed that the Bruce Willis character in that film is never actually seen talking to another person beside the kid who sees dead people after the opening sequence? Don’t believe that? Think you remembering seeing the Willis character having a conversation with his wife or anybody else? Go back and watch it again; you were misled. And not even very artfully. No disrespect intended, but anyone who couldn’t figure out that Bruce Willis was dead less than ten minutes into The Crying Game probably should never be allowed to take the witness stand in a murder trial.
What does the inability to see what is before you in a movie because the director cheated your perceptions to a really ridiculously exploitative degree have to do with The Crying Game? Neil Jordan provides the opposite example of how to deliver shocking revelations and incendiary plots twists without resorting to cheap tricks. Which is important to an analysis of the film because one of the underlying themes driving the narrative is the inability of its characters to see what is right before them because their visions have been exploited and manipulated by ideologies that can only survive through cheating and misdirection. Or, to put it another way, Fergus in The Crying Game has a lot more in common with the person watching The Sixth Sense who is so ready to believe in the existence of such non-existent entities as ghosts that he never even stops to wonder why nobody but the kid who sees dead people ever actually talks to Bruce Willis.
Except that Fergus may be considered even more blind because while movie audiences were treated to a mere two-dimensional reality that fooled them, Fergus is right there in the mix among three-dimensional human beings and—more to the point—a fourth dimension in the form of an entire subculture that passes right by his consciousness and ability to apprehend reality. If you have sought out this study guide for The Crying Game you are probably already familiar with its plot enough to know that the opening paragraph above was also an example of misdirection. While it is certainly true that the controversy which surrounds the story told in The Crying Game bears some relation to some viewers to its love story featuring a white man and a back woman and while the controversy surrounding the fact that it is an Irish revolutionary and British citizen is of even greater import to some, the secret revelation that transformed this modest little movie of limited appeal into a must-see blockbuster had to do with yet another level of depth between the two characters who fall in love. On the offhand chance that you are not yet familiar with that secret, the spoilers will end here with the assertion that many different reasons exist to make the movie worthwhile, but certainly one of the most important is the portrait it draws of universal ability of human beings to fail see truth staring them right in the fact.
For instance, some very vocal critics slammed The Crying Game by making the suggestion that an IRA soldier falling in love with a British hairdresser was about as ridiculous as a slave falling in love with a plantation owner in America in the first half of the 19th century. Leaving aside for the moment which character in the film is more representative of being the slave and which the slave owner, what really undermines this criticism is the very long history of an essential component of human nature: you don’t really get to have the final say on who you fall in love. If it were so easy to avoid falling in love with the enemy, the history of the world would be significantly less complicated. The Crying Game makes some incredibly pointed and quite explicit political statements, but they are not the big statements. Probably because writer/director Neil Jordan is smart enough to realize that when you try to use a movie to make big political statements, all the more subtle points on small-scale issues tend to get pushed right out of the frame of reference. By couching the many political points he wants to draw attention to within a love story that just keeps moving farther and farther away from viewers have been conditioned to expect, what The Crying Game eventually succeeds at more than anything else is creating a sense of dislocation in the audience just big enough to force them to start paying closer attention to what it happening on the screen than they otherwise might.