Recently, in an interview with CNN, writer-director-actor Joel Edgerton opened up about his new picture Boy Erased. One comment, in particular, struck me while reading it. He said: "as much as you want a movie to be relevant, we all hoped that the movie was irrelevant.” This perfectly summed up my thoughts as I was walking out of the theater. This is the second film I’ve seen this year about gay conversion therapy, the first being Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and it breaks my heart that stories like these are still relevant. Even though they're told from vastly different perspectives, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased are equally important and need to be shared in this day and age.
This adaptation, based on the memoir of the same name written by Garrard Conley, revolves around a young man named Jared Eamons. He lives in Arkansas under the watchful eye of his father, a Baptist minister named Marshall, and his mother, Nancy. In the opening scene, as they sit down for a very early breakfast before driving to the program called "Love in Action", the silence is deafening as everyone stares at their plates instead of each other. When Jared hops in the car with his mom, he sticks his hand out the window and begins to wave it up and down as they cruise down the highway. Nancy, with a look of concern on her face, expresses her fear of him losing his arm while doing this, which leads into a small argument. These exchanges between Jared and Nancy convey how, underneath her passive and conservative outer shell, she cares deeply about her son regardless of his sexual identity -- she just hasn’t figured out how to show it yet.
Lucas Hedges delivers an incredibly raw performance as Jared. If you haven’t heard of him yet, which would be weird and you should definitely stop reading this and go watch his Oscar-nominated performance in Manchester by the Sea, he’s worth keeping on your award show radar. His work alongside Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, who portrays his mother and father respectively, make for one hell of an ensemble. Both Crowe and Kidman’s characters aren’t painted as the villains of the story, they’re nuanced and interesting. They all have layers and faults that add to the film’s emotional core.
When Jared arrives at “Love in Action”, we’re immediately immersed in the program's intense nature upon meeting its director, Victor Sykes, played by Joel Edgerton. He’s a man that has built his organization upon psychological and physical abuse, along with swindling money out of desperate parents. He's the villain at the center of this story along with an insanely creepy ex-con played by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea, who serves as the disciplinary sidekick to Sykes.
Nancy's evolving viewpoints add another layer upon all of this as well. After spending the majority of the movie as a very submissive personality, we see a sensitivity towards her son start to blossom in the third act, and she begins courageously leaning into her motherly intuition. It’s this moment of revelation, ironically the name of the track co-composed by co-star and singer Troye Sivan for the film, that has you leaving the theater with a feeling of hope in your heart. I could go on for hours about how fantastic Nicole Kidman is, but I'm sure you guys already know that.
Boy Erased is a distressing story told with compassion through its incredible leads and thoughtful direction from Joel Edgerton. Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russel Crowe deliver Oscar-worthy performances guaranteed to give you chills. Boy Erased will be released in select theaters on November 9th.