THREE AND A HALF STARS Accidentally outed to his preacher father, Jared signs up for gay conversion therapy.
Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe
When an awkward college encounter turns to rape and the perpetrator cries victim, the real victim Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is outed to his God-fearing parents: it’s a bad situation made near intolerable given Dad (Russell Crowe) is a preacher. To save their son from eternal damnation, the family’s solution is conversion therapy and Jared is enrolled at a camp run by the charismatic Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton).
Based on the memoir by Garrard Conley whose own experiences are the backbone of BOY ERASED, Edgerton (writer, director, star) has created a compelling and, at times, disturbing account of surviving the discounted practice of gay conversion therapy. The film’s narrative is fairly straight-forward; Jared is sent for assessment at camp, bad things happen, he leaves and along the way, some people learn a thing or two about forgiveness and acceptance.
There’s a polish to Edgerton’s production that was missing from Desiree Akhavan's superior THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, a film that covers similar ground with a more subtle, seemingly more authentic approach. Nonetheless, the sheer star power of Edgerton, Hedges, Crowe and Nicole Kidman not to mention support by homegrown pop star Troye Sivan will ensure this reaches, and touches, the hearts of considerably more people.
As it should. This is a strong film which makes no apologies for its position while laying out the reasons for taking the position it does. Edgerton is a skilled filmmaker and a gifted actor: as the unpleasantly dogmatic and smugly overconfident Skykes, he raises the hair on your neck without ever tipping into cartoon villain. Hedges is a stable centre around which a type of chaos swirls while Crowe and Kidman are solid, almost likeable, as Mum and Dad whose core beliefs have been shattered by the unexpected.
Of itself, BOY ERASED probably won’t change your position on gay conversion therapy (a discredited form of psychological cruelty still practiced in many developed countries including Australia). However it has the power to start conversations, and there is its strength and its contribution in these complicated times.