Boy Erased (2018)
Director: Joel Edgerton | Runtime: 1h 55mins | Drama, Biography
A biographical drama based off the book by Garrard Conley, it follows Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) as he attempts to deal with his sexuality with a deeply religious father (Russell Crowe) and mother (Nicole Kidman), and the battles he faces through a gay conversion centre.
This film is not for everyone, and will likely upset those that are devote Christians – that is likely what Edgerton and Conley wanted, however. Based off the book from Conely’s own personal experiences, it dives into the nature of these conversion centres, aimed to ‘help’ those who are supposedly feeling or have acted on ‘sinful’ thoughts. There is so much more to be explored, though, as we jump between Jared’s time whilst having a girlfriend, his time starting college and eventually coming out to his parents, which leads to his father decision to send him away.
It’ll be no surprise to those of you that have seen Lucas Hedges in Manchester By The Sea (2016) or even Lady Bird (2017) and Three Billboards… (2017) that he is superb in his performance, quickly becoming one of best young actors today. He copes with confusion in understanding his own sexuality, reluctantly believing he wants to change instead of accepting who he is. Kidman brings in another subdued role as well, with the battle of trying to figure whether the love for her son outweighs her and her husband’s homophobic beliefs. Russell Crowe has a much calmer performance than a lot of people are used to, with much less division than his wife. For him, sending Jared to the programme was the only choice, even saying he can’t live under this roof like that.
Edgerton himself brings in an exciting presentation of Victor Sykes, the man who ran the system when Garrard Conley was there. He and Hedges bounce off one another with brilliantly executed precision, Sykes never believes he is in the wrong and that their programme is best for these people, many of them young adults like Jared. One confrontation in particular really shows the talent both these men have, and for Edgerton proves that he deserves to be both behind and in front of the camera.
The film has roots in trying to reveal the truth about these camp-like institutions, but goes beyond that into a story about understanding sexuality and love for one another. The interactions between Jared and his parents is potentially the only time this piece seems to miss a step, though. It wants to create tension between them, as they aren’t quite sure how to vocalise their feelings towards one another. In this sense, its successful, but unfortunately it takes away some of the dramatic heft in the latter stages, aside from one short sequence in which Kidman has a brief outburst. It’s short lived, however, and although the ending is favourably ambiguous, it does leave you wanting a bit more to chew on.
That doesn’t bring down the film as a whole though, balancing the right level of sympathy for Jared without completely villainising his parents, they believe they are doing right by their son. In the end, all the strings aren’t tied into lovely neat bows, but gives us insight into a story that many others have had to live through, and the issues of sexuality within a religious family.