"successfully brings to the screen a story that is capable of sparking anger as well as sadness in the audience"
Nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes this year, Boy Erased is a biographical story revealing the cruelty and reality of conversion therapy through the eyes of the victims, adapted from Garrad Conley’s memoir, the film follows Jared Eamons’ gruelling and violent experience in a conversion therapy centre in Arkansas.
Son of a Baptist preacher and car dealer, Jared is forced by his dad to address his unnatural thoughts and sexual orientation and correct them in a facility for immoral men and women. Although Jared himself still doesn’t fully understand his own feelings, his family approval and love is reason enough to forsake his choices. Through his eyes the audience is forced to witness the brutality and horrifying practice carried out by men of religion to cast out the sin from their patients.
The fifth work as director for Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased tells the reality of conversion therapy without being gratuitously cruel. Edgerton is a director that focuses on the small details and the emotions conveyed by the actors, including himself.
In Boy Erased, words are not needed to showcase the terrifying work done in those conversion program centres in the name of God and love, the characters emotions, their actions and state of mind are enough to carry the message across. By pointing the camera using many close ups and lingering on every detail, Edgerton allows the audience to deeply connect with the story and its protagonists.
The cast ensemble’s work is outstanding in carrying the film’s message across; Lucas Hedges is brilliant as Jared, he captured this boy’s innocence and complete trust in his family. Throughout the film he seems like an observer rather than the protagonist. He goes with the motion and wants to make his father proud, even if it means obliterating himself. However, the more his experience gets more violent and oppressing the more he finds his voice and the strength to stand up for himself.
Particularly worth noting is the conversation he has with Russell Crowe, who plays his father in the film. In this poignant scene, Hedges brings to the screen the performance of a lifetime by delivering his lines with conviction and contained power, highlighting Jared’s respect for his father but also for himself.
Nicole Kidman’s performance as Nancy was outstanding, the evolution of her character in the story is heart breaking. She is torn between being a mother and a complicit wife. In the end, her instincts become stronger and she shows her support for her son by condemning the medieval practice pursued during the conversion program. Kidman’s performance is honest and during Nancy’s breakthrough she showcases her passion to the craft by losing herself in her character’s emotions.
As a biographical adaptation of a real life experience, Boy Erased successfully brings to the screen a story that is capable of sparking anger as well as sadness in the audience by shining a light on the darkness of conversion therapy. It’s a story that doesn’t condemn the perpetrators or victimises these young men and women who had to suffer through the programs. It is just a film that brings to the surface the reality of an America that many still ignore.