Reviewed by: Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Director: Joel Edgerton
Screenwriter: Joel Edgerton, based on Garrard Conley’s memoir: Boy Erased: A Memoir.
Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Cherry Jones
Release Date: November 2, 2018
For most people growing up is time for exploration filled with rising emotions, hormones running wild and sexual awakening. The protagonist of Boy Erased: Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) grows up in Arkansas, surrounded by a loving mother Nancy Eamons (Micloe Kidman) and strict father Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe), who is a Baptist pastor. Nancy, Jared and his girlfriend Chloe (Madelyn Cline) attend church every Sunday, where Marshall gives sermons, telling the congregation that he had been blessed with a beautiful wife and son and could not ask for anything else. This ideal but simple life come to a crushing stop once Jared starts his freshman year at an out-of-town Christian college, in 2004. He is befriended by his dorm roommate Henry (Joe Alwyn) that helps him to get acclimated to college life, filled with long distance running and Christian Rock at night. When Henry rapes Jared one night we watch the latter feeling scared, ashamed and confused. Filing a report with the police is a nonstarter, and like most victims of sexual assault Jared tries to erase the event from his memory. All hell breaks loose once Nancy receives a phone call informing her that Jared is gay. Horrified Marshall consults with the church elders and decides to “help” his son by sending him to “Conversion Therapy” at a place called Love in Action (L.I.A.). Since Jared wants “to change” he agrees to join the program.
What looks in the beginning like boot camp turns gradually into a strange, bizarre and dystopian institution. We meet Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), head therapist in L.I.A., who uses tough love and psychological pressure to “change” his charges. Participants are not allowed to have cell phones or use the toilet without staff member present, and are made to confess their impure thoughts and deeds publicly. Jared who is a willing participant takes a left turn after witnessing the public shaming of another boy, followed by Bible flogging done by the entire family. This event leads to the boy’s ultimately suicide.
Acting is first rate in Boy Erased. Lucas Hedges in the role of Jared gives us a portrait of a young lad who is trying to live by Christian values and fit in the local community. Nicole Kidman plays Nancy as a religious Christian woman who still “loves Jesus” but will not desert her son at a time of need. With her teased blond hair, perfect makeup and eye-liner this traditional stay-at-home pastor’s wife has a dramatic cultural awakening after realizing that her husband needs some “handling”. Russell Crowe plays Marshall as a sheltered character, confined by upbringing in a traditional Christian community, with unwavering love to god and family. Joel Edgerton gives us Victor Sykes, as a therapist with problems of his own, while trying to “change” boys and girls that need no changing.
Music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, which is distracting, creates a nerve jarring dystopian feeling. Since the story line is non-linear I found the editing by Jay Rabinowitz confusing. Filming of the entire production centered in Atlanta, Georgia.
Boy Erased is a welcome addition to this fall’s film line-up, which gives Lucas Hedges a potential Oscar node.
114 minutes. © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer