Director: Joel Edgerton
Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton
Boy Erased is about exactly that – a boy in the process of being erased. Jared Eamons is a smart, affectionate teenager in Arkansas. His father is a Baptist pastor who owns a booming car dealership that one day will belong to Jared. Jared also has a girlfriend. The only problem is that he is not particularly interested in her. Because he’s gay. When he tells his parents that he is attracted to men, they respond with, what they think is the best solution – they enroll him in a conversion therapy program, which is an unholy mix of religious dogma and techniques from the recovery movement. It’s cruel and emotionally and physically abusive. The hope is to pray and beat the gay away.
The film, adapted from Garrard Conley’s memoir, is both efficient and effective. This is Joel Edgerton’s second film after The Gift, which was surprisingly creepy. The actor has evolved into a director who may not instantly grab you with his virtuosity but he is a sure-footed and sturdy story-teller. In Boy Erased, he is aided by strong performances from Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, playing Jared’s parents. And Lucas Hedges as Jared. Lucas is absolutely remarkable – he captures every beat of Jared’s difficult journey – from confusion and shame to anger and resistance and eventually, acceptance and love.
What I liked best about Boy Erased is that the film is driven by empathy. There are no outsized villains here – even Victor Sykes, played nicely by Edgerton himself, the bulldozer who runs the therapy program, has texture. And the end credits reveal the root of his hate for homosexuality. Jared’s parents struggle with their religious beliefs and their love for their only child – these aren’t awful people.They simply think they are doing their best for their son.
I think Boy Erased is an important film for an Indian audience. I don’t know if we have equivalents of conversion therapy here but I do know that there is enough prejudice, misinformation and hate. I urge you to see this film to understand the trauma that this prejudice and hate inflicts. Even if one parent comes out with a deeper understanding of his or her child, Joel Edgerton will have done a whole lot of good. I’m going with three and a half stars.