REVIEW: ‘Boy Erased’ is a powerful look at a tragic subject

The horrific, despicable practice of gay conversion “therapy” is depicted in this film, based on the true story of Garrard Conley, who wrote a memoir with the same name.

The film tells a version of the true story through the character Jared (Lucas Hedges). The son of a Baptist preacher, Jared is a young man who just after starting college is forced to go to a gay conversion establishment.

The movie opens with Jared starting his time at the conversion facility, and from there, showcases a series of flashbacks where it details how Jared was forcibly outed and why his parents Marshall (Russell Crowe) and Nancy (Nicole Kidman) reacted the way they did.

In just his second directorial outing, Joel Edgerton, who also wrote “Boy Erased” for the screen, crafted a rather effective film. Both the flashbacks portraying Jared’s anxiety and the dramatization of what allegedly took place at the conversion facility are compelling and draw an audience in.

As an audience member, it’s easy to either find yourself feeling empathetic toward Jared’s plight or anger toward the conversion establishment’s director Victor (played by Edgerton himself). Through the portrayal of this experience, an audience can really come to understand just how destructive these conversion attempts are.

With that said, I couldn’t help but feel like “Boy Erased” had potential to be better. The script certainly could’ve been punched up a little more, and the movie suffers from a rather anti-climactic third act. Plus, the ending wraps things up a bit too nicely, with it feeling somewhat rushed.

The film remains a largely engaging experience from start to finish, though, thanks to a stellar lead performance from Hedges. His work here is a great followup to his performances in “Manchester by the Sea,” “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Hedges is fantastic here, skillfully portraying the weight his character is carrying on his shoulders.

Academy Award winners Kidman and Crowe are also strong, but the standout from the supporting cast has to be Edgerton. He plays the loathsome individual with authenticity, which results in the character’s authority and control over the conversion facility to feel real and threatening.

“Boy Erased” isn’t perfect, but it’s a solid entry from Edgerton. The script could’ve been stronger in places, but the dramatizations of what happened to this person in this situation had impact. It’s one of 2018’s stronger features for sure. 4.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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