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Based on a true story, this drama was adapted from the life of Brandon Teena, born Teena Brandon, a woman who chose to live her life as a man and suffered tragic consequences as a result. In 1993, 20-year-old Brandon (Hilary Swank) leaves Lincoln, Nebraska for the nearby community of Falls City, where she sports a crew cut, favors jeans and boots, and is regarded as a man by most of the people in town. While Brandon's friend Lonny (Matt McGrath) warns her that sexual outsiders aren't looked upon kindly in Falls City, she develops a reputation for being something of a ladies' man, and is soon living with a single mother named Candace (Alicia Goranson). But when Brandon meets teenage Lana (Chloe Sevigny), the two become romantically involved almost immediately. Brandon makes friends with Lana's mother (Jeanetta Arnette) and a burly ex-con named John (Peter Sarsgaard). John and his buddy Tom (Brendan Sexton) run with a rough group of men who like to drink and carouse, and they accept Brandon as one of their own. However, when Brandon ends up in jail on a traffic violation, her secret comes out, and, while Lana stands by Brandon's side, John and Tom feel betrayed -- and their anger soon boils over into violence.

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