Directed By Joel Edgerton
Starring – Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe
The Plot – Tells the story of Jared (Hedges), the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town, who is outed to his parents (Kidman and Crowe) at age 19. Jared is faced with an ultimatum: attend a conversion therapy program – or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith. “Boy Erased” is the true story of one young man’s struggle to find himself while being forced to question every aspect of his identity.
Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some adult language and brief drug use
– As effective of a film as you’re going to get. Part of the reason that I have enjoyed Edgerton as a screenwriter thus far, is the real life issues in our own world that are often misunderstood and presented with clarity when given the proper time and commentary to enhance the wisdom of his audience, and “Boy Erased” measures up to this in spades. There were many parts in the film that angered me for what so many endure because of who they want to love. There were many parts that made me laugh because of the silliness of Christian ideals when brought into contact with anything that soils the sanctity of what they deem ideal. There were also many parts when I indulged in Jared’s struggle, and wanted to hug him for everything he went through. If you’re looking for a film to invest yourself in, this one will hook you from the moment the first shot goes up.
– Edward Grau’s personality behind the lens. Not only is the film shot beautifully, in all of the soft colors of atmosphere that soak in the very serene and status quo of the American household, but also the examples of gay interaction are shot with such respect and intimacy for those engaged in it, giving the sequence the same kind of structure and merit that we expect every time we see a man and a woman exude levels of passion towards each other. Grau’s scope understands that these are people above everything else, and his tight, informative angles highlight LBGT relations in a way that very few films have succeeded at, sadly.
– Edgerton as a director. “Boy Erased” for me was a much bigger improvement for Joel than his previous movie “Loving”. Not that I hated that film, but one thing missing for me was the proper atmosphere and weight involved in the battles that his protagonists were going through, and that couldn’t be further from the truth for this movie. Just something as simple as a dinner table scene centered around this family grips us with such a feeling of confining anxiety, and the way Edgerton makes sure to focus on the little things, like lack of eye contact, or parental facial registry, goes a long way in accurately articulating Jared’s feeling of isolation for who he really is. Joel masters this, and does it by writing, directing, and starring once again in his picture, and it’s clearly evident that this man is not easily jaded or rattled by overwhelming responsibility.
– Moving performances all around the table. What I love about the work of the three main stars is they’re each given ample timing and patience for the proper moment to take over a scene, and prove their level of depth as long-accomplished actors. Kidman’s love is often her dilemma, often toeing the line between father and son in the same way she now finds herself between love and hate. Crowe’s commitment to this preacher character feels very synthetic, and while he never requires a long line of dialogue to feel award worthy, his intimidating stature as a man of god first and a loving provider second is something that constantly feels unnerving the more you unravel about his character. Hedges is a revolution, plain and simple. This young star continues to take on characters who are every bit as expansive as they are honest to the moviegoers watching at home, and his on-cue delivery for watery eyes and bottled up emotional registry are something that he unleashes like a superpower, giving us frequent goosebumps for the occasion.
– There’s a kind of post-90’s familiarity to the setting, even though the film never mentions when it takes place in. From the soundtrack giving us songs by rock band Seether or soul singer Troye Sivian, or the inclusion of the Sega Genesis classic video game “Mortal Kombat”, the film has an enriched center of culture that surprisingly keep it undated for all of the same reasons it rightfully should be. What’s even more impressive is that none of these things feel out of place or forced upon us, instead generating an outline for teenage sights and sounds that put the fun in nostalgic ambiance.
– As for the musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, there’s a surprisingly overwhelming feeling of horror tones used for the occasion that appropriately set the mood for what’s transpiring at this disgusting place of gay conversion. Considering the material is every bit as horrifying and shocking in the revelatory sense, the dual composers take advantage of such a feat, echoing these ominous and rattling instrumentals with the kind of ferocity to really make them stand out. There were many times during the film where I felt like I was indeed watching a horror movie, and the composition, that was slightly leading towards this, all but confirmed the suspicions of the devious activity that was taking place. Sometimes the biggest evils are the ones right within the characters of our society that we deem acceptable, and this realization plays hand-in-hand with such a damp delivery from Bensi and Jurriaans.
– Which brings me to my next point: this film carries with it a great sense of urgency and importance. Edgerton never allows anything to feel counterfeit, instead placing all of the pieces together and letting them play out, so the audience gauges their own response from it. At the end of the film, we are reminded by some pre-credit stats how this disgusting practice still takes place today, and for something that feels so prehistoric is actually prevalent now more than ever. This is alarming, but provides a great message supplanted between nearly two hours of film, and that is to love and embrace our children for who they are, not what they are.
– Visually rendering for the real life people the story is based on. A credit picture reveals to us the likeness of these trio of characters, and considering you have some familiarly good looking actors like Crowe and Kidman, the props and wardrobe department busted their asses in bringing the similarities between these two sides closer to light. Part of the thing that bothers me in movies is when an actor doesn’t feel right for a role because of the immense differences in their physical appearances, but the casting agent here deserves great credit for drafting so respectfully close to the story.
– The film does feature a scene that many moviegoers won’t appreciate, but it should be commended for its brutal honesty and tastefulness in shot composition that leaves much to the imagination. This is again a nod to Edgerton for knowing what little and big he requires out of each individual scene, and for my money the scene felt necessary, but also positively restrained for how bad it really could’ve gotten.
– Violent time jumps that can sometimes rattle the transition between scenes. This happens a lot during the first act of the film, when Jared’s past and present day narratives feel like they’re on a converging course. My problem is that it’s done in such a way that feels like a nagging distraction, often taking a few minutes to figure out where in the story we are placed before that connection continues forward. Likewise, the four year time jump towards the end of the film felt unnecessary, and takes us out of the unraveling drama during the time when it feels at its most intense.
My Grade: 9/10 or A