Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Written by: Joel Edgerton
Based on the Novel by: Garrard Conley
Produced by: Steve Golin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Cherry Jones, Michael “Flea” Balzary, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Joe Alwyn, Emily Hinkler, Jesse LaTourette, David Joseph Craig, Théodore Pellerin, Madelyn Cline and Britton Sear.
‘Say it, I am using sex and homosexuality to fill a God-shaped hole in my life. Say it!’ demands Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) head therapist of a conversion program.
It’s a mantra he uses to cure the ‘afflicted’ and confused brought to Love In Action (LIA) to be cured of their homosexuality; a program Jared (Lucas Hedges) finds himself trapped in after admitting his homosexuality in a world built on Christian values; to his Christian mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) and his father, Marsahll Eamons (Russell Crowe) a Baptist pastor.
There are a lot of LBGTQAI films around (recently, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Disobedience), and I admit, I groaned at reviewing another drama that didn’t hold my interest – Australia has just been through a referendum to make gay marriage legal; the topic, shall I say, has been well discussed.
But I also admit to my ignorance, the bubble I inhabit where I don’t have to confront my Christian parents with an admission I know they would struggle to accept.
Director, screenwriter and actor, Joel Edgerton read Gerrard Conley’s memoir, ‘Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith and Family’ in what felt like seconds, relating more to the concept of feeling trapped than the confession of homosexuality.
And this view brings a different tone to the film – the suffocation and trauma of good people doing bad because of misunderstanding rather than politics or even religious perspective.
Boy Erased is more the unveiling of psychological trauma experienced by innocent, good kids who are genuinely confused (or not) about their sexuality; willing to go into a program, for the sake of their parents and family, that tells them God won’t love them if they’re gay (and think about it, bringing a group of conflicted young people together to stop them being gay? Talk about forbidden fruit!).
So when church and family, the foundation of your upbringing tells you you’re sick and wrong, the psychological damage is soul destroying.
Instead of being hit over the head with a, for want of a better metaphor, good versus evil (the evil being the religious, anti-gay) there’s a more complicated dynamic shown here, shown from the perspective of a son who wants to do the right thing, and parents who love their God and their son.
There’s very different roles for some big names – Nicole Kidman as the bleached, rhinestone encrusted pastor’s wife, the pastor himself played by Russell Crowe: a powerfully conflicted man who’s faith tells him to disown his son, yet a loving man who continues to try to understand while admitting his disappointment of never having biological grandchildren.
Love is love is easy to say until it’s your own.
Joel Edgerton plays the surprisingly believable charismatic lead counsellor – who would have thought the Aussie larrikin had the cult-like leader in him?!
And the restraint shown by young Lucas Hedges as Jared is endearing (I can’t think of another term as he managed to strike a maternal chord).
Edgerton has handled this complicated suffering that exists quietly yet extensively in the world with delicate sensitivity, allowing the integrity of Garrard (Jared) to continue to echo beyond his novel, and perhaps even this film.
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