FILM: Boy Erased (2018, Joel Edgerton)

Boy Erased (2018 poster).png

Biographical drama Boy Erased is distributed by Focus Features, following its premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Adapted from Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same title, albeit with the names of individuals changed, the film focuses on Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges). In his late-teens he realises that he starts to realise that he is gay, but when he comes out to his parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) he is sent to the Love In Action gay conversion therapy program by his father (who is a Baptist preacher). Willing to give it a go out of love for his parents and respect for their faith. However, upon arriving, Jared is horrified to learn that the therapy is nothing short of abusive, the chief therapist (Joel Edgerton) abusing the fact that what happens within sessions is strictly confidential.

PROS

  • It would have been so easy for the film to just tell Jared’s story, but some of the most heartbreaking scenes depict his mother going through all manner of emotional anguish and worry as she questions whether she should have gone along with her husband’s wishes.
  • Director/screenwriter Joel Edgerton uses flashbacks well to give a better understanding of Jared’s journey, and does not hesitate to emphasise the fact that individual actions can ultimately have long-term impacts on both an individual and their family.
  • Lucas Hedges shows again his tremendous talent with a very sensitive performance that conveys all manner of internal conflict, and receives very good support from Nicole Kidman especially, as well as memorable support from Joel Edgerton.

CONS

  • While the non-linear narrative does help us the viewer understand Jared’s journey better, the flashbacks to the experiences that led to him being at the program do make the narrative feel disjointed and merely offer us a wider overview instead of a deeper, nuanced understanding of him.
  • While there are no bad performances, the majority of the supporting characters are very poorly realised, forgettable tick-list presences, and the actors therefore have scarcely anything to work with. And for several characters we are simply left questioning if their actions ever led to their comeuppance by the end.
  • Joel Edgerton comes across as trying to make a far more high-brow piece of art than the film needs to be, with a dreary style and often intrusive score.

VERDICT: 5/10

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