Renowned for his onscreen performances in films like Animal Kingdom and Warrior, Joel Edgerton has also been working hard on the other side of the camera, knocking about making films with his brother Nash for over two decades.
Following up his creepy directorial debut film The Gift with a similarly creepy tale about a teenage boy in Arkansas who undergoes conversion therapy at the insistence of his father, a devout Baptist preacher, Edgerton demonstrates a natural ability to tell stories through a cinematic lens.
Based on the experiences of the author of “Boy Erased: A Memoir” Garrard Conley, it’s 2004, and Lucas Hedges plays Jared (aka Garrard).
Jared is a normal kid playing basketball and getting ready for college, but due to the pressure of his religious upbringing, he is reluctant to get intimate with his cheerleader girlfriend. At least, that’s a convenient excuse for him, where the real issue may lie in the fact that he is attracted to males, not females.
When an encounter at college comes to the attention of his parents, Jared agrees to attend Love in Action, a program designed to “fix” homosexual and overly sexual behaviour, under the supervision of course founder Victor Sykes, played by Joel Edgerton.
Edgerton is superb as the seemingly straight edge hardliner as he pushes the kids to admit to their true feelings in a bid to change their conduct under the guise of doing God’s work.
Naturally this leads to disastrous consequences for some of the participants, and the film mainly follows the facts of real life Garrard’s experience, Edgerton also manufactures a couple of angles for the sake of the film.
Incredibly Russell Crowe (as Jared’s Dad Marshall Eamons) and Nicole Kidman (as Jared’s Mum Nancy) have not appeared onscreen together prior to this production and they make a great couple, struggling to allow room for one another’s beliefs while also trying to do their best for their son.
It feels like it could be a hateful story, but Jared’s ability to navigate the therapy and also broach the divide between his parents wishes and his own reality take the film to an optimistic conclusion, despite the fact that Conversion Therapy still goes on.
This film should open the conversation as to why that’s not a good thing.
3 & 1/2 Stars – “A Confronting and Compelling Film”