Director: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Joel Edgerton
Length: 1h 55min
Boy Erased is the next film to join what in my opinion is an oversaturated market of gay conversion films along with The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Boy Erased appealed to me greatly, the trailer pitched it as a piece of cinema that seemed to feature some strong actors and had an emotionally engaging story line. Unfortunately it really missed the mark.
The film is based on the 2016 memoir of Garrard Conley’s experiences of a 12 day gay conversion therapy program. We watch as Jared (Hedges) realises his homosexual feelings and then the following heartbreak when his mother and father (Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe) discover this fact. His father is a Baptist preacher in Arkansas and the majority of the film is watching Jared battle with the facts that he feels he has let his faith and church down. Throughout the film we are treated to little excerpts from Jared’s life before the therapy. I wish more of the film was spent on this sections as it became very difficult to empathise with his character having not known his past.
I believe the writing and the story is what really let this film down. For a film about gay conversion therapy it was really lacking some love and empathy. The terms on which Jared enters into the conversion therapy are painful, the audience is shown a pretty horrific rape scene which personally surprised me being included in the 15 rating certification. The reaction from his parents and watching Jared’s life fall apart is poorly written and paced. Almost no time is spent exploring Jared’s relationship with his mother or father which is the largest conundrum of the story. Is this boy willing to give up a part of himself in order to please the people he loves?
Sivan also wrote ‘Revelation’ for the film which got nominated for a Golden Globe. The scene in which the song was featured was my favourite of the film – it unfortunately got cut short as with most of the other relationship building scenes in the film. Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans composed an original score for the film which gave it a level of sophistication that The Miseducation of Cameron Post really lacked. The music fit the story and setting beautifully, and I am slightly surprised that this has not been picked up in the awards nominations for the film.
I realise the tone of this article does not match the 5 out of 10 scoring I have given it. I felt I couldn’t give it much lower for multiple reasons. Surprisingly a lot of critiques have given it 3 or 4 stars (out of 5), and I feel this is majorly to do with the subject matter. It is an important story to put across and the therapy depicted was shocking – for this reason I have given it a 5. A trend seems to be arising amongst the films I have seen this year (Colette, Mary Queen of Scots) in that the story being told has the potential to be incredibly interesting but the execution of the film lacks substance and verve. I hope this subsides to reveal some better films later in the year because so far the cinema of 2019 has disappointed me.