Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Film Review - Boy Erased

Gay Conversion Therapy is the subject matter explored in Joel Edgerton's new film Boy Erased. Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) who shined in Manchester By The Sea is the son of an Arkansas Baptist preacher Marshall (Russell Crowe) and proper Southern lady Nancy (Nicole Kidman). He goes off to college where he is attacked by his running buddy, forced to have sex with him against his will. Confused Jared says nothing about the incident then his attacker outs him to his family leading to late night clandestine meetings with religious elders ending with Nancy driving her son to a gay conversion therapy program in Georgia. Once at the church all modern devices are removed alongside any written material the attendee may have. They are given binders, mandated to dress a specific way and told certain actions and topics are off limits but there is no indication that the participant is not allowed to leave if they choose. It's more the confusion, shame and pressure from family making them feel that they need to stay and change that keeps them there.

Director Joel Edgerton who plays the camp's untrained lead therapist and founder Victor Sykes has a message he is trying to get across with this film. These camps overwhelmingly have a negative effect on everyone they touch expect for the proprietors of the facility. The participant is mentally emotionally and physically confronted. The family can be split apart by the process plus friends, extended family and the community get word of the circumstance before an individual has sorted out their feelings, emotions, orientation, and path themselves.

Australian Edgerton enlists fellow Aussies Kidman and Crowe to play Jared's parents. Crowe's Marshal tried to take the analytic approach to fix his son while Kidman's big haired Nancy keeps her emotions and thoughts to herself letting her husband make the decisions until a critical point. Look for Flea channeling an Army Drill Sargent as an instructor at the camp. Lucas Hedges who seems to be everywhere this year is understated as Jared. He is not sure of his sexuality, honestly not knowing if he is gay and willing to do what his parents wish. He has suffered a recent trauma that he has not come to grips with plus has unresolved charged issues with his dad.

Boy Erased is a critical look at conversion therapy programs. Edgerton explores how they are run, dramatizes the confrontations student to student /student to staff/ attendee to their family. The qualifications of the instructors and experts are scrutinized in a subtle yet effective manner. The goal here looking at the end credits postscript is to have kids and parents communicate with each other on an equal footing with the teenager having the final say after significant research and discussion to determine if this is the path to be followed.

**1/2 Out of 4

Boy Erased | Joel Edgerton | U.S.A. | 2018 | 114 Minutes.

Tags: Arkansas, Baptist Church, Running, Rape, Gay Teenager, Outed, Conversion Therapy, Confusion, Embarrassment, Understanding, Acceptance, Ford Dealership.

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