'Boy Erased' leaves mark with tale of gay-conversion therapy

There's plenty of big-name talent in "Boy Erased," including the Australian triumvirate of Nicole Kidman, Ru...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 6:29 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 6:29 PM

There's plenty of big-name talent in "Boy Erased," including the Australian triumvirate of Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and director-writer-co-star Joel Edgerton. The film, however -- based on Garrard Conley's memoir about his experience with gay-conversion therapy -- largely belongs to Lucas Hedges, in a movie that doesn't oversell its message in exposing the damage such intolerance can inflict.

Hedges plays Jared (yes, the name has been slightly changed), the son of an Arkansas minister (Crowe) who, after enrolling in college, must come to grips with the fact that he's gay.

Celebrities

Demographic groups

Gays and lesbians

Health and medical

Joel Edgerton

Medical fields and specialties

Population and demographics

Psychology

Sex and gender issues

Society

Exposed through an unexpected series of events, Jared's dad enlists the guidance of "wiser" men, which leads to the youth being shipped off to a day camp that -- the smiling faces notwithstanding -- has the uncomfortable feel of a prison, with those facing the indoctrination program adopting different strategies to survive.

Going along for the ride, meanwhile, is Jared's mom (Kidman), a woman raised to defer to her husband in such matters, yet who must balance her growing unease with her love for her son.

Edgerton -- who previously directed the 2015 thriller "The Gift" -- brings tremendous sensitivity and quiet strength to those scenes in particular. "Boy Erased" is similarly understated regarding its core issues, letting the audience see how much these young people -- raised by devout church-going families -- wouldn't "choose" this path, giving the lie to their instructor's admonition that they are somehow rebelling by being gay -- rooted in anger, disappointment or some other childhood trauma to be identified and overcome.

Gradually, the film exposes the bankruptcy of the "pray the gay away" mentality and reveals its cruelty to the vulnerable participants, which merely magnifies the inner turmoil they feel. "God will not love you the way that you are right now," they're told, a devastating thought for teens facing exile from the lives they've known.

In short order, Hedges -- who co-starred in "Manchester by the Sea," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and the upcoming "Ben is Back" -- has become one of the signature actors of his generation, and he's terrific again here, more than holding his own opposite the supporting players, although Edgerton provides a moving showcase for all the key participants.

This is the second film dealing with this topic in a relatively short span, following "The Miseducation of Cameron Post," a smaller independent entry that starred Chloe Grace Moretz. There are also tonal similarities to the recently released "Beautiful Boy," another tale that pivots on the relationship between confused parents and a college-age son.

While both "Cameron Post" and "Boy Erased" will likely largely end up preaching to the choir, Edgerton's film feels calibrated -- as indeed, the filmmaker has articulated -- to engage the issue with considerable restraint. That includes empathy toward the parents, who are clinging to deeply held beliefs to which they can only continue to rigidly adhere, as Jared comes to realize, at the expense of their children.

What seems clear is that "Boy Eased" -- far from disappearing -- is one of those meticulously crafted films imbued with the kind of quiet power that can, and should, truly leave a mark.

"Boy Erased" premieres Nov. 2 in the U.S. It's rated R.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93556

Reported Deaths: 2810
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6974155
DeSoto541155
Harrison373272
Jackson338867
Madison320886
Rankin319075
Lee260667
Jones242078
Forrest239070
Washington217971
Lafayette208439
Lauderdale1999124
Bolivar179465
Oktibbeha175050
Lamar163134
Neshoba1536103
Panola144027
Sunflower141744
Lowndes139957
Warren138150
Leflore136980
Pontotoc123416
Pike121248
Monroe118865
Scott116425
Copiah116233
Coahoma112327
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106753
Grenada106135
Yazoo103829
Simpson101143
Union97824
Tate95137
Leake93937
Adams91936
Wayne87721
Pearl River86550
Marion84133
Prentiss81117
Covington80522
Alcorn77311
Itawamba76221
Newton75723
Tallahatchie75418
George74913
Winston72419
Tishomingo65837
Chickasaw65524
Tippah64216
Attala64125
Walthall59325
Clay57817
Hancock56121
Jasper55415
Noxubee54315
Clarke53539
Smith52314
Calhoun50612
Tunica47913
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41714
Perry40718
Quitman3745
Humphreys37315
Stone35511
Greene34517
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32511
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2429
Benton2191
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131405

Reported Deaths: 2292
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19015337
Mobile13066289
Montgomery8674173
Madison758375
Tuscaloosa7240114
Lee571359
Shelby568450
Baldwin506149
Marshall383543
Etowah335547
Calhoun333839
Morgan319726
Houston270822
Elmore254947
DeKalb235519
St. Clair223435
Walker222680
Talladega206926
Limestone199519
Cullman184517
Dallas174826
Franklin174328
Russell17132
Autauga169024
Lauderdale164633
Colbert160626
Escambia156225
Blount155114
Jackson150611
Chilton148527
Dale133043
Covington130927
Coffee12778
Pike11559
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113042
Clarke104917
Marion94228
Butler90938
Barbour8357
Winston70912
Marengo69919
Lowndes64827
Pickens63514
Bibb63210
Hale61528
Randolph60812
Bullock58714
Lawrence58520
Monroe5758
Geneva5724
Cherokee56516
Washington54613
Clay5427
Perry5376
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52311
Crenshaw52331
Macon47720
Henry4724
Fayette4219
Sumter41819
Lamar3462
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3236
Greene30015
Coosa1643
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
Columbus
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 66°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather