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Boy Erased – Movie Review

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Boy Erased – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The horrible practice of gay conversion therapy is unfortunately an ongoing problem, with The Miseducation of Cameron Post tackling the subject a few months ago. Boy Erased works as a fitting companion piece with director Joel Edgerton unflinchingly showing the trauma inflicted on the people sent to these facilities. Adapting Garrard Conley’s memoir, Edgerton shows a real understanding of what Jared is going through and also seems intent on depicting his parents’ point-of-view. Edgerton is seeking to make the audience uncomfortable and not shy away from the abuse that happens at these centres. It shouldn’t take a movie to convince someone that forcing people to change their sexuality is wrong, but it’s good that films like this exist to highlight the issue.

Edgerton is smart to focus principally on Lucas Hedges’s Jared as he appears in about every scene in Boy Erased. The film shows his varying emotions at understanding his homosexuality and the difficult effect the camp has on him. The decision has been made to tell the story in a nonlinear fashion, which succeeds at further developing Jared and the decisions he makes. A lot of emphasis is also put on his parents, with Edgerton showing the contrast between them. While his mother is more open, his father keeps his thoughts internal. The family dynamic is difficult, but the film still works at making them seem like a real unit. Boy Erased is just as much about rooting for the parents to understand Jared for who he is as it is about seeing Jared leave the gay conversion camp.

Joel Edgerton had previously directed the horror film The Gift and some of those elements find their way into the depiction of the camp. Edgerton himself appears as Victor Sykes, who conducts many of the sessions. It’s a terrifying performance, because he is clearly abusing these people and he also has no understanding of actual psychology. While Jared is the focus, there is also an attempt to give attention to the other characters forced to attend this camp. Britton Sear is particularly good as Cameron, who is given the most abuse by Sykes. Xavier Dolan also appears as another camp attendee, but there’s more of a vagueness over his opinion on the conversion process.

However, it really is Lucas Hedges who carries much of the film. So much of his performance is told through glances and one gets an idea of the million thoughts running through Jared’s head. A flashback presents one of the most uncomfortable moments and it’s not even in the conversion camp, yet it provides a major element of his character development. Hedges sells the pain that Jared experiences in that scene and how that reverberates through the rest of the film. Boy Erased isn’t entirely full of misery and those rare moments of happiness for Jared provide a welcome relief. Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman also show the many emotions his parents go through. Kidman has significantly more screentime, which is intentional as Jared’s father ends up being the more distant figure. Hedges and Crowe do share one scene together that is particularly powerful.

Boy Erased is a difficult film to watch, but also a necessary one. While gay conversion camps are being banned in some parts of the world, it is still a major problem in the large majority of countries, even in Canada. Boy Erased puts the audience right in the thick of one of them and Joel Edgerton makes sure to show the abuse attendees go through. No, it doesn’t make for pleasant cinema, but it is also needed to send the point across. Further elevated by the performances, Jared and the rest of the folks in the clinic are immediately sympathetic. This could almost be classified as a horror film, except the monsters are actual people inflicting real harm and that makes it scarier.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison