“With a tighter edit and a reworked ending Boy Erased would be nothing short of a masterpiece.”
Joel Edgerton’s new film Boy Erased is a fictionalized telling of true events wherein Jared, a teenage boy from a devout catholic family, is sent to conversion therapy when he informs his father that he is gay. What follows is, as you can imagine, a heart-wrenching tale of self-discovery as well as survival. Boy Erased is headlined by Lucas Hedges, and supported by Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and Joel Edgerton himself.
What I liked about Boy Erased is that it cut right to the chase. It assumed that everyone knew what the film was about, especially after the brilliant trailer was released and screened in front of almost every movie for the past month, so it doesn’t delay the inevitable. This was surprising because what I expected to get was a dramatic telling of a boy coming to terms with himself and then having to put up with the bullshit in conversion therapy. I still got that, but the order was changed a bit.
Boy Erased features a very heavy story and it has performances to match. Lucas Hedges is nothing short of brilliant, and the same could be said about the rest of the cast as well. I will admit that it was a little difficult to come to this conclusion because the performances in Boy Erased are so understated that it may not look like acting to some. What you have to keep an eye out for here are the subtleties. But luckily if you aren’t about to look for minute facial ticks or body language there are a few moments of overt brilliance shared by many of these actors, but these moments are few and far between.
Unfortunately for me the emotional moments in Boy Erased didn’t stick. We get an unfiltered look inside of a conversion therapy camp and very rarely was I disgusted by what I was seeing. Sure the rhetoric that was being spewed was backwards and gross, but very rarely did we see the true horrors of places like these; and we saw even fewer of these horrors impact the main character directly.
Boy Erased is barely a movie about conversion therapy. Conversion therapy acts as a gateway into the real story which is our main character’s struggle to survive. We see pressures come at him from all angles, and it’s a wonder that he pulled through at times. The issue I had was that there were almost too many pressures to comprehend. It’s obvious that this character carried most of his pain on the inside, but that can make for a pretty difficult movie to relate to. A lot of the time it felt like the focus was drifting away from the point of the movie. Granted this allowed for a few brilliant moments of artistic representation (like the college scene) but ultimately it left you wanting the movie to deliver what was promised.
This is amplified at the end of the movie when it arrives in a completely different direction than it had been building to the entire time. This felt out of place even if the film was about the character more than the story. I’m not sure exactly what I wanted out of Boy Erased, but I know that what I got left me ultimately unfulfilled.
Overall Boy Erased is not a bad movie despite its flaws and strange decisions. The story still offers a terribly heart-wrenching look at the struggle of sexuality as well as the struggles of the world. It is filled with brilliant performances, wonderful direction, and a story that has a good chance of making you cry. With a tighter edit and a reworked ending Boy Erased would be nothing short of a masterpiece.
I give Boy Erased a B