Boy Erased Reviews
Boy Erased is one of those films it seems almost churlish to criticise for its formal aspects, given that it obviously comes from a place of deep respect, has laudable intentions, and says something undeniably important. Written and directed by Joel Edgerton (who also stars and produces), the film is based on Garrard Conley's Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family (2016), the true story of his experiences with conversation therapy in Arkansas in 2004. However, simply because a film has good intentions, it doesn't necessarily follow that it's a good film, and Boy Erased is such an example. Primarily because of its insistence on keeping the audience emotionally distanced from the characters, it never gets anywhere near the kind of emotional highs and lows one might anticipate from such inherently sensitive material.
Telling the story of 19-year-old Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), who is sent to the Love in Action conversion therapy program by his father Marshall (Russell Crowe), a Southern Baptist preacher, after Jared admits to having homosexual thoughts. With his mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) unsure if they are doing the right thing, Jared settles into the program, which is run by the fundamentalist Sykes (Edgerton).
Offering a window into the world of conversion therapy, although the film admirably resists the urge to vilify Marshall, Nancy, even Love in Action itself, Edgerton is unequivocal in condemning a system that compartmentalises anything with which it disagrees as "taboo". Love in Action is predicated on making young people feel guilty regarding the "sin" of their sexual impulses, whilst at the same time reinforcing the infallibility of church doctrine. This instils a deep-rooted sense of torment for people who are already confused - if a person's predilections are directly in contradistinction to church dogma, then such predilections must be immoral and against God.
In terms of acting, as Jared, Lucas Hedges has a difficult task, playing a character that becomes increasingly withdrawn and emotionally shut down as the film progresses. Kidman plays Nancy as a woman who subscribes to the notion that the man is the head of the household, accepting Marshall's decision without openly questioning him. However, it's obvious she's not entirely comfortable. Instead of playing Marshall as the token villain, Crowe plays him as fundamentally conflicted. He loves his son and is devastated by what has happened. He genuinely wants to help Jared, and he wants to understand, but is prevented from doing so by a lifetime of faith and his absolute conviction of his own moral certitude.
However, despite the strong performances from both Kidman and Crowe, the film fails to depict the texture and nuances of the family dynamic. All three family members are types rather than fully fleshed out individuals. Along the same lines, none of the Love in Action students are granted any kind of arc or personality beyond that of the archetype they represent, as the film often falls back on the generic tropes of the pseudo-prison film.
It's also somewhat problematic that the only homosexual sexual activity depicted in the film is a rape. It's a powerful scene in and of itself, brilliantly shot in a single static take which forces the viewer to watch what is happening unmediated by editing or blocking. However, it's unsettling that Edgerton never shows us any consensual and pleasurable homosexual content. True, the film is not about sexual activity, but it remains problematic that the only time we see a homosexual character acting on their impulses is a rape scene. What is one supposed to take from that?
Another problem is that, as a whole, it's an extremely cold film, remaining always distanced, either unwilling or unable to really get into the psychological trauma inflicted upon the attendees. Perhaps Edgerton was trying to avoid exploitative or manipulative emotion, but whatever the case, he has made a film that is itself emotionless, keeping the audience one or two steps removed.
Boy Erased is a laudable film dealing with an important subject, but it's also emotionless and with paper-thin characters. Edgerton's even-handedness is certainly to be commended, as is his refusal to cast the parents or Love in Action as the villains, and his avoidance of emotional manipulation is praiseworthy up to a point. However, there comes a moment in the film where you realise that you're as close to these characters as you're going to get, yet they have still only been summarised. The film will probably go on to be an important document in the ongoing attempt to eradicate this cruel practice. It's well-intentioned, compassionate, and respectful. It's just not an especially good film.
Boy Erased spectates the journey of a baptist preacher's son, Jared, who not only must overcome the fallout after being outed to his parents, but is pressured into going into conversion therapy. Once at the compound, Jared finds conflict with the camps leader. The film follows Jared as he finds acceptance in his true self.
In 34 states, conversion therapy is still legal and unregulated. This movie highlights this and then some, it shows us exactly how badly people put into these conversion camps are treated and abused. The film, which is based off of a memoir by Garrard Conley, shows the audience something different â" something true. Boy Erased has won multiple awards, one of which was the AACTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2018.
The actors in the film play their parts beautifully; sometimes you think your being presented with true emotions of actors being captured on camera, the film almost seems unscripted at some points; for example some of Jared reactions during abuse scenes or â~cures'. As you watch and get invested into this film, you soon realize just how amazing and beautifully done this is, how well the directors and actors managed to present the book so completely, so outstandingly, as a film.
There are a few parts where it can be a bit graphicly violent, but it's never to the point where you want to stop watching. Within the first 20 minutes (if even), you'll find yourself so invested in the film you won't even realize how much time has passed until the credits roll and you're seeing photos of the actual families, the actual facts behind the film; which, by the way, you DEFINITELY want to wait for!
In conclusion, this film is a must see. My mom is already doing research on places to buy it, and by the end of the movie I was crying without even realizing it, and just staring at the screen in awe of how beautiful and moving it was. My mom had to come over and hug me, tell me she loves me for me, for me to calm down enough to speak. All I can say now, watch the film, you'll be amazed.
On the other hand, all acting was good - especially Lucas Hedges. No one does creepy acting like Flea. I wish he was in more movies. He is a creepy, threatening presence, and so good at it.
The movie entertained me and made me want more and the topic is one that deserves focus. Final Score: 9.7/10
Strong acting all around here, in a film ably directed and written by Joel Edgerton, who also has a major role in the movie. The script is adapted from the memoir of Garrard Conley.
This film reminded me of "The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, which I saw recently and is based on a similar theme. I also found it to be a top notch movie.