After debuting as director for the devilishly clever ‘The Gift’, Joel Edgerton is back behind and in front of the camera for this movie based on Garrard Conley’s memoirs also called ‘Boy Erased’, and Edgerton definitely shows no signs of his first film being just beginners luck.
Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) comes out to his parents and his devoutly religious father Marshall (Russell Crowe) decides it’s best to send him to a gay conversion therapy group. Whilst attending this “Love in Action” program, Eamons may see how what he feels shouldn’t be masked but not if leader Victor Sykes (Edgerton) has anything to say or do about it.
As director and writer for this adaptation of true events, Edgerton manages to retain an interest to something that easily could have been try-hard and preachy but is in fact a solidly told look into a shocking world with empathy being a well used driving force. Sure, there are some on the nose directorial choices now and then, such as a cringey well-timed bus-stop advertisement but overall it’s a film with an inviting quality, which is impressive considering the clinical and narrow-minded viewpoints of select Christians.
This is a film that employs music rather well to aid the gentler moments and the spikes in narrative, it knows when to let the silence do the talking but when the score by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans enters it really adds to the piece. There comes a point after a shocking moment within the cult-like program, where some haunted, broken strings waft in sounding like the perfect reflection for this warped state of ‘therapy’ which is still atrociously happening in over 30 U.S states. Troye Sivan’s song similarly has a haunting vibe, the lyrics and sound encapsulate a poetic power and almost settle into your bones in the same way the anger and disgust of what these conversion therapy organisers do.
Lucas Hedges is a damn fine actor and you can always guarantee, even after a mere three years of prominence after his breakthrough role in ‘Manchester by the Sea’, that he’ll turn in a performance brimming with gravitas and this is no exception. Hedges really makes you feel for what you see. Nicole Kidman, who plays Jared’s mother Nancy, is unquestionably a seasoned performer with sky-high talents who can take even what could be a small role and make it special. The way Kidman carries this maternal yet quiet way of sitting by before emotionally sitting up and realising what’s happening is a beautifully acted portrayal.
‘Boy Erased’ may have some occasions where it feels pedestrian and featuring Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a jarring sight but mostly it’s a film like a hand out of a car window, wonderfully stroking the breeze in being this liberating piece of freedom, telling a story that needs to be told.
Written by Troy Balmayer
Rating – 7/10
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