Aussie director finds just right balance
Joel Edgerton ( The Gift) Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton
moving and well-made drama, Boy Erased focuses on the controversial practice of conversion therapy, in which homosexual youth are shipped off to religiously inclined rehab facilities to “pray the gay away”.
Working in writer-director mode, Australian actor Joel Edgerton coolly tackles this complex, hot-button topic with impressive levels of tact, sensitivity and balanced insight.
The true story told here is based on the best-selling memoirs of Garrard Conley (played by Lucas Hedges under the character name of Jared Eamons), the gay son of an American Baptist preacher who was transferred to a conversion clinic during his first year in college. Rather than adopt a strictly melodramatic approach that may have sensationalised this material — or rendered it too archly provocative — the screenplay makes a welcome and concerted effort to follow Jared’s plight from all sides.
In particular, the line of thinking that brought Jared’s loving, devoutly religious parents Marshall (Russell Crowe in imposing form) and Nancy (Nicole Kidman, also to the fore with some exquisite scenes to her name) to arrive at such a drastic decision is outlined clearly and sympathetically.
Marshall and Nancy are not demonised for making what some would deem an unforgivable mistake. Like so many people in similar situations, they were doing what they thought was right, based on what counsel was available to them at the time.
Edgerton also stars as Victor Sykes, the tightly wound head of the clinic whose misguided mission in life is to “make real men” of those who are supposedly anything but in God’s eyes.
The scenes in Boy Erased that depict life behind the secretive walls of places like this are not so much harrowing as they are saddening.
Jared’s determination to be listened to and heard causes deep friction with the dubiously qualified Sykes and his team, who are equally determined to apply their one-sizefits-all “cure’’ to anyone unlucky enough to come into their care.
Performances, writing and direction across the board here are consistently strong and committed, as is Boy Erased’s eloquent push for greater acceptance and understanding.
TOUCHING MOMENT: Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased, which was directed by Australian Joel Edgerton.