Boy Erased movie cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe
Boy Erased movie director: Joel Edgerton
Boy Erased movie rating: 4 stars
Boy Erased is a film on the conversion programme run at many places across the US, a mix of dubious science and faith, to “bring homosexuals around” back to God’s path, based on a memoir of the same name by Garrad Conley. It is that, but it is also more. At its heart, Boy Erased is about parenting, growing up, and where one draws the line for the other part to begin.
Jared (Hedges) is the much-loved, perfect son of Marshall, a Baptist minister (Crowe) who also runs a successful card dealership, and his beautiful wife, Nancy (Kidman). Jared is respectful, has a nice girlfriend, and is set to go to college. Their worlds come crashing down when Jared comes out as gay. Marshall turns first to his seniors at the Church and later to a conversion programme called Love In Action, run by Victor Sykes (Edgerton).
At the conversion programme, Jared is put through sessions that call upon him to confess his “sins”, to make a “moral inventory”, to list all the defects of his extended family, and to watch what could happen if he doesn’t fall in line. It is horrifying to witness confused teenagers, unsure about the rightness of what they are doing, being told their choice is repugnant in God’s eyes.
Hedges is a brilliant actor, and his transition from a boy who adores his parents to one who begins to question their ways, is heart-breaking. Jared undergoes all this while also discovering own sexuality, during the course of which he lets down his girlfriend, suffers a brutal assault, and finds tenderness with another. Edgerton explores the rape of a young boy, which is almost never seen on screen, with sensitivity. As Jared is forced to stay silent, Hedges’ wounded eyes tell the story of his hurt and confusion.
Kidman, who has always used her beauty to brutal effect, is also very, very good as the mother upon whom falls the task of shepherding her son to the conversion programme. Her parental instincts rebel against the slow eclipse of her son, and Boy Erased is as much about her.
While Sykes is the closest to a villain in the film, there are no good and bad people here. In a very effective scene, Jared revolts when told he has to name some people who made him the way he is. He refuses, saying he doesn’t hate his parents, and asking why should he be angry at anyone, for what he is. That is as good a statement as any.