Jacob Richardson | 08/10/2018
A powerful, affecting piece of cinema.
Jared (Luca Hedges) is the son of a small-town Baptist pastor (Russell Crowe). After he is outed to his parents at age 19, he is faced with an ultimatum - attend a gay conversion therapy program or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends and faith. Thus leads Jared to be taken by his mother (Nicole Kidman) to Victor Sykes’ (Joel Edgerton) conversion therapy program; Project Refuge.
For his sophomore directorial feature, Joel Edgerton picks up the famed novel by Garrard Conley and works wonders with it. He crafts an intricate, subtle and passionate story that perfectly measures the heartbreak and tragedy of the situation with which Jared finds himself.
He also plays a distinctly hateable character in Victor Sykes. As the conversion therapist himself, Edgerton embodies both the snakelike charm and the deep sense of insecurity around his own sexual preferences so perfectly, it is astonishing. He is matched in intensity by Kidman and Crowe, whose performances raise this piece out of obscurity.
However, it is in Hedges that Edgerton finds the true heart of this piece. He wowed us in both Manchester By The Sea and Ladybird, so it is no surprise that Lucas Hedges is the absolute MVP of Boy Erased. His pathos and humanity; his repressed anger and distinctly likeable sense of sanity brings a really refreshing take on the familiar elements of the story. As an uptight, Southern, son-of-a-Preacher college student, the character itself is somewhat limited by his muted personality. But Hedges manages to wrench such truth out of even the tiniest of movements; the smallest flicker of the eyes, the most surreptitious grasp of his body, or straightening of his shoulders.
It’s a tremendous performance, and when coupled with the slew of other outstanding performances in this film, really elevates what otherwise could have been a standard piece. Indeed, this is doubly important given the pace of Boy Erased, which is often slow. There isn’t much visually astonishing either, with lots of mustard yellows and muted tones. It leaves you with an absolute tonne of room to focus on dialogue, story and performance. Thankfully, in Boy Erased, those three things are strong enough that we only ever feel the pacing issues a handful of times.
Boy Erased is a beautiful and affecting piece of cinema, anchored by tremendous performances and a steady hand from director Joel Edgerton.