Boy Erased - This Conversion Therapy Movie Rocks
Dir: Joel Edgerton
Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Flea
Joel Edgerton’s sophomore directing and writing effort has the slight misfortune to follow on from the similarly themed gay conversion therapy movie, The Miseducation of Cameron Pope – we know, you wait for one “pray away the gay” movie to come along, and then two show up at once. It is however the stronger of the two, largely because it concentrates as much on young Jared’s relationship with his parents as all three try to come to terms with his sexuality, as it does on the institution and heinous rationale of Edgerton as head preacher/”therapist” Victor Sykes.
As the teen struggling to work out exactly how he feels, Hedges is triumphant, a beautifully delicate performance that radiates a mixture of confusion, anger and loss – and confirms his status alongside his former Lady Bird co-star Timothee Chalamet - as one of the best young actors around.
The first two acts of Edgerton’s assured and well-judged movie focus more on the camp he attends (a very real thing that US VP Mike Pence still advocates on a daily basis.) It is on one level a thoroughly unpleasant place, full of unreasonable rhetoric and borderline bullying. But one of the many strengths of Edgerton’s film is how reasonable he appears to make it. It becomes insidious but – as with his movie as a whole – he is interested in looking at fully rounded human characters (no matter how misguided they may be) seeking never to demonise.
Along the way it sometimes feels like such major players as Kidman and Crowe are being side-lined. But the director is saving them for the pay-off. Kidman becomes terrific as the mother who is unsure of everything her life has developed into except her love for those in it, and the struggles that leaves her facing. Crowe meanwhile – leading with his now ample gut – takes his Reverend from a Baptist Bible basher in the pulpit, to a man genuinely torn between his faith, his long held beliefs, and the very simple fact that he doesn’t know how not to love his son. His final scene with Hedges is immensely moving, and all the more powerful for refusing to wrap up events in a fully satisfying way.
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