Based on Garrard Conley’s true-life coming of age and coming out memoir titled “Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family,” this drama depicts the struggles of a 19-year-old son (Lucas Hedges) of a Baptist pastor in a small conservative town, as he realizes he is gay. His well-meaning parents (Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman) enroll him in a conversion therapy program, but that’s not any kind of an answer. He starts to question the leader’s (Joel Edgerton)’s methods and eventually takes charge of his own life while his parents reconcile their love for him with their beliefs.
Disturbing, yet hopeful, “Boy Erased” features another outstanding performance from Lucas Hedges as Jared Eamons, whose powerful person story is a cautionary tale for our times.
The Oscar-nominated Hedges, whose breakthrough role was in “Manchester by the Sea” has proven he is one of the best actors of his generation with each successive part. He is quietly convincing as an all-American boy, lonely and afraid, struggling to find his place in the world. And horrified to discover the people he trusted are being duped, too.
As his confused parents, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman lend gravitas to the situation. They don’t need to be making grand gestures in showier roles, but through their concern, they show a hard-fought journey of ultimate acceptance and love. Coming around is a more difficult process for the father than mother.
Reconciling who you want your son to be and how he really is at the film’s center.
Australian actor Joel Edgerton capably directed the film, and stars as the villain, so the conversion sessions are the most chilling. But really, the film is a quiet, thoughtful one. The colors are muted and the conversations polite – until we get to the shyster teachings of an unqualified sadist.
As is often the case, the Leader is not what he appears, and rules the program through fear and intimidation. That’s when everyone prays the cavalry is coming.
The film is modest, the program alarming, and the personal story real and heartfelt.