Joel Edgerton has been one of those actors I’ve been anticipating to see on the screen every time he’s in a new film. But when he made his directorial debut with 2015’s The Gift (an underrated thriller), he made me even more impressed with his filmmaking skills, and I was eager to see his follow-up, which is Boy Erased. After he read Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir of the same name, he just had to make the point across so everybody around the world can understand that it’s all about love, regardless of how we are.
What’s the Story: Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), the son of a small-town Baptist pastor, must overcome the fallout after being outed as gay to his parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe). His father and mother struggle to reconcile their love for their son with their beliefs. Fearing a loss of family, friends and community, Jared is pressured into attending a conversion therapy program. While there, Jared comes into conflict with its leader and begins his journey to finding his own voice and accepting his true self.
From knowing what the story was about before finally watching it a year after it came out, I had a certain feeling of what to expect. I didn’t even know conversion therapy was a real thing, as the first time I heard of it was from an episode of South Park. There was another recent movie called The Miseducation of Cameron Poe that had a similar premise, but I never got the chance to seek it out. This takes on the path of what Jared is getting through with any problems in his way. Even if Boy Erased isn’t the most perfect drama out there, it’s easy to understand how powerful this story can be.
Easily the best thing going for the film is all the performances. Hedges is an actor I’ve been following since his Oscar-nominated role in Manchester By The Sea. An incredible actor who’s the same age as me. With his role as Jared, he showed off a lot of versatility as a teenager going through dealing not only with his faith but with his own sexuality that someone might go through.
Kidman and Crowe as his parents Nancy and Marshall also serve some of the best performances of their long careers here. They felt like real parents rather than looking at them as actors playing them to Hedges. For being the parents of a son who said he thinks about men, of course, they don’t know what to think of it and decided to put him in therapy with the ultimatum of not living with them anymore. Hedges and Kidman shared more scenes with each other, while Crowe has more of a supporting role. But that doesn’t mean his scenes are enough to consider this one of his better dramatic roles in a long time. Out of both parents, Kidman’s Nancy is more likable in finding this understanding of what Jared is going through. She offers one scene near the end that was a definite sign of relief and made me like her character more.
While Edgerton is behind the camera and adapted the screenplay, he also plays Victor Sykes, the leader of “Love in Action,” whose methods of helping those people doesn’t make things better for any of them. His performance was really good. Some other supporting players that I didn’t think nothing of but enjoyed what they had to offer came from Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan and singer Troye Sivan (who has the song “Revelation” played during the film and over the credits) playing other inmates at the program. You also have Flea pop in as an ex-con to come in and make matters worse when he’s around. But Britton Sear as Cameron just made me feel sorry for his character and what he had to go through at a certain point.
Seeing this is the director’s sophomore effort, it’s not as memorable since it doesn’t stand out as a drama that holds many surprises. From the two Edgerton has already done, they are different since one’s a stalker thriller and the other deals with personal issues. This was more of a slow-burn, as expected. Because of that reason, it probably made the non-linear narrative a bit predictable from its flashbacks, or I just thought this would be that would rip my heart out. He knows when to show the emotions within the characters. Then another problem that I’m sure everyone else thought the same thing, but Danny Bensi’s score came off as distracting in really letting you know how to feel during a scene.
But I totally saw what he was trying to convey, even when it might become a tad overdramatic in certain scenes. There were a couple of moments that made me feel uneasy watching, including an assault scene I didn’t see coming and made the viewed be like Jared: traumatized. Seeing how conversion therapy is still legal in over 30 states doesn’t make sense when the research states aren’t effective. Just total BS. Surprisingly enough, there isn’t anybody who the real bad guy here since both sides believe what they’re doing it right.
For me, I’m a human who honestly thinks everybody should love anyone from the opposite sex, and it’s sometimes hard for any person to not understand that conversion therapy is just brainwashing people’s minds and making them straight. Sure, they might not be born to have these feelings, but we develop certain feelings later on in life. This is a perfect film to come out that the LGBTQ community will focus on those who were in the same position as the real-life Garrard Conley or every person from the group portrayed in this. We are still in a world where it’s a struggle to confront parents about who they truly are on the out and inside, and regardless, acceptance is the right thing to do since they’ll be the same person they’ve always been.
Boy Erased isn’t for everyone, but after you’re done watching, you just hope more change will come our way and making things better for everyone. Edgerton made a solid effort with his second feature film that’s carried with amazing performances all around. Not something I shed a tear over, yet it’s a story that needs to be heard. Even though this didn’t get any awards love except two Golden Globe nominations, it feels nice knowing the performances were still talked about, even as dark horse choices during that Oscar season. I can see myself re-watching this, later on, to see if I like it more.
Overall Grade: B-