Rating2.0 / 5
Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton
November 8 2018
Boy Erased is an eye-opening film that looks into gay conversion camps that still exist all over the world. While lead actor Lucas Hedges delivers a strong performance, ultimately the film can’t compete against the similar new release Beautiful Boy.
When Jared (Lucas Hedges) is forcibly outed to his Baptist preacher father Marshall (Russell Crowe) and mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman), they force him to participate in a Christian gay conversion program during his college break. As the program starts to lean on the side of abuse, Jared realises that just because the Church supports something, doesn’t always mean it’s correct.
Based on a true story, Boy Erased is an interesting and sometimes shocking film that looks at what it means to be a homosexual in Christian America. It deals with rape and being forced to come out when you’re not ready to. The situations that Jared is consistently put through are highly emotional and potentially damaging in the long run to a young man trying to find his way in the world.
Joel Edgerton writes, directs, and stars in the adaption of Garrad Conley’s memoir, and for such a surreal story and subject matter (I mean gay conversion programs in 2004 – are you for real??), Edgerton delivers a direct, graphic and honest film, not dissimilar to his previous film The Gift. Unfortunately, there are some predictable moments that’ll make you roll your eyes in exasperation, but if nothing else, the film is certainly educational.
Hedges delivers a mature and harrowing performance as a boy who was always so sure of the world and his position in it until moving away to college. His inner grappling with his “unnatural” feelings towards men is intense, but it’s his quiet defensiveness about his sexuality and fear to embrace his feelings that is the hardest part of the film to watch. The entire film is carried on his shoulders, but luckily Hedges rises to the occasion.
Kidman plays the role of the concerned mother and dutiful wife to a tee, with the only thing bringing down her performance being the ridiculous wig she wears. Kidman certainly has her moments and her ability to portray a variety of complex emotions without saying a single word is definitely at play in this film. Sadly, Crowe is reduced to a stereotypical father figure. Edgerton doesn’t make use of his acting ability and makes him a side note in the film that fails to make an impact.
Boy Erased is a complicated look at the extremes some people will go to in order to change things that don’t fit within their beliefs, but it’s overshadowed by its fellow recent release Beautiful Boy. At their core, Beautiful Boy and Boy Erased have very similar storylines. Unfortunately, Boy Erased falls short of Beautiful Boy’s execution. If Boy Erased had been released three months before Beautiful Boy, it might have been received differently, but in comparison, Boy Erased is far more formulaic and consequently loses out to Beautiful Boy.
Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018