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Boy Erased (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Boy Erased


Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Flea, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Britton Sear, Jesse Latourette, David Ditmore, Cherry Jones, Matt Burke, William Ngo, Lindsey Moser, Emily Hinkler, David Joseph Craig, Victor McCay, Tim Ware, Joe Alwyn, Madelyn Cline and Josh Scherer.

Screenplay by Joel Edgerton.

Directed by Joel Edgerton.

Distributed by Focus Features. 115 minutes. Rated R.

Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Gay conversion therapy is a very controversial topic, and one that is sadly a lot timelier than it was a couple of years ago.

Actor/writer/director Joel Edgerton has taken a rather subversive tack in filming Boy Erased – which is based on the memoir of the same name by Garrard Conley about time spent in a facility during his teen years when he was struggling with his sexuality. Edgerton doesn’t necessarily vilify the workers who are working to “cure” the teens of their homosexual thoughts at the conversion camp. Instead, he lets their actions speak for themselves.

Edgerton told me on the red carpet for the Philly Film Fest screening that he felt it was important to let the audience make up their own mind. He didn’t want to come at it with a liberal agenda, he would just show what happened and let the audience decide. Besides, many of these people were doing things they believed were right, even if they may have been going about it in the wrong way.

Edgerton said that Conley’s book spoke to him because he had always had a fascination with people being held against their will, though, at least to start, Conley did want to be there.

Rising star Lucas Hedges plays the young Conley, a questioning teen who is the son of a local Reverend (Russell Crowe) and his devoted wife (Nicole Kidman). Conley has been dating a local girl but is not sure he’s that interested. He’s also been noticing other boys and starting to wonder what that means.

When he goes away to college, he decides to explore these feelings somewhat. However, when he is brutally raped by one of the boys he has been flirting with – who then calls his family to out him – Conley’s secret is suddenly out for all to see.

His parents decide, under suggestion of some of the local clergy, to put him in a facility to convince him that homosexuality is a choice and through faith he can change. He goes willingly, also wanting to figure his life out.

There he meets the head of the facility – played by writer/director Edgerton. Early on the whole setup seems fine for Conley, but as things go on, he starts seeing the dark side of the place.

Boy Erased is a smart and timely look at sexual roles, religion and intolerance. It seems a bit less strident than the similarly-themed The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which came out earlier this year. And, in today’s world in which LGBTQ rights are under renewed attack, it has a very important message.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 22, 2018.


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