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Synopsis: Boy Erased tells the story of Jared, the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town, who is outed to his parents at age 19. Jared is faced with an ultimatum: attend a gay conversion therapy program – or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith. “Boy Erased” is the true story of one young man’s struggle to find himself while being forced to question every aspect of his identity. (Focus Features)
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe
Writer: Joel Edgerton
Director: Joel Edgerton
Running Time: 114mins
Now this isn’t the first film of the year revolving around the idea of gay conversion therapy after The Miseducation of Cameron Post. While this is an important topic that should be discussed, Boy Erased tackles this topic in a much bleaker way. Based on a book that was based on the memoir of Garrard Conley, this story was about the inner struggle of a small town pastor’s son named Jared (Hedges). Faced with the potential of being exiled by his family and shunned by his friends and faith, Jared attends a gay conversion therapy program run by a pastor named Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton).
Over the course of the film and his time in the program, we see how Jared’s feelings came to be via flashbacks of past encounters. Meanwhile, the conversion program was not a great place to be (otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a film). Sykes surely believed he meant well but his methods and results were questionable at best, using his warped sense of religion to con vulnerable parents. Basically, everybody was sinful because of their upbringing. Instead of focusing on the experiences of the other members of Jared’s conversion program group, Jon (Xavier Nolan), Gary (Troye Sivan), and Cameron (Britton Sear), the story focused on the relationship between Jared and his family, including his mother Nancy (Kidman) and his pastor father Marshall (Crowe), explaining how his religious upbringing got him to where he was.
The best part of the film was the performances across the board but especially those of Hedges, Kidman, and Crowe as Jared, Nancy, and Marshall respectively. Hedges was sensational, giving an emotionally nuanced and vulnerable performance as a fragile boy who eventually found himself and his strength. Kidman followed suit, whose love for her son overcame her religious beliefs while also finding strength of her own. Crowe finished off the ensemble with a powerful performance of his own. All three had powerful moments of their own with the three having excellent chemistry. Meanwhile, Edgerton as Sykes was great as well.
Overall, this was an excellent drama with a beautiful and emotionally powerful story brought to life by an amazing score, a sharp script, and adept direction as well as spectacular performances from Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe.