Aussie di­rec­tor finds just right bal­ance

Sunday Tasmanian - - News -

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.

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