★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
We shouldn't have to make films like this. It's 2018. Gay conversion therapy should be a thing of the distant past. It's been discredited by the entire medical community, yet many Christian churches still believe that it can work (which it can't), only 14 states have banned it, & our Vice President is a fervent supporter of this barbaric practice. It's been estimated that about 700,000 Americans have gone through this practice, all because the people around them can't accept the fact that they are LGBTQ+.
Boy Erased shouldn't be necessary. It shouldn't be something that needs to be seen. But sadly, it is. And it is a film of immense emotional power. Based on the 2016 book Boy Erased by Garrard Conley, & set in the mid-2000s, the film follows Jared Eamons (played by Lucas Hedges), the son of housewife Nancy Eamons (played by Nicole Kidman) & car-dealer/Baptist pastor Marshall Eamons (played by Russell Crowe).
Jared leads a simple, Christian life, & he continues this as he goes off to college. But once he gets to college, he starts to fully realize something: he's gay. He keeps this secret from his parents, as they are Baptist, & are in line with the evangelical beliefs on homosexuality. However, these plans are thwarted when Jared is forcibly outed by a classmate, Henry (played by Joe Alwyn). After consulting with fellow church members, Marshall gives Jared an ultimatum: continue his "act of sin," or try to "fix the problem." Not wanting to lose his family, Jared reluctantly agrees to go to conversion therapy.
Despite protests by Dr. Muldoon (played by Cherry Jones), Nancy drives Jared to Love In Action, a conversion therapy program headed by Victor Sykes (played by Joel Edgerton), with the borderline abusive Brandon (played by Flea) as his second-in-command. Jared befriends some people at Love In Action, namely Jon (played by Xavier Dolan) & Gary (played by Troye Sivan). He tries desperately to fix his "problem," but eventually realizes that it is not something that can be fixed, & is something that is just part of who he is. But the road to acceptance will be a long one.
The cast is spectacular. Lucas Hedges gives the best performance of his career, showing that he is a force to be reckoned with. Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances ever. Joel Edgerton gives his one of his best performances. And Russell Crowe gives his best performance since Cinderella Man.
Joel Edgerton's direction is excellent. Edgerton thoroughly gets the message across without coming off as heavy-handed, & shows that he can direct as well as he can act.
Joel Edgerton's screenplay is phenomenal. Edgerton does a terrific job adapting the book, keeping the heart & soul of Conley's book, along with the message & an eventual light at the end of the tunnel.
Eduard Grau's cinematography is fantastic. Grau's camerawork is composed of a great long take & some astonishing close-ups, further heightening the tension between the family & between the members of the program.
And the score by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans is amazing. The score is led by a somber piano & mournful violins, further adding to the solemn tone of the film.
This is one of the best films of the year. It shouldn't be necessary, but it is. It's well-acted, well-directed, & well-written, but it is definitely an important film, one that will hopefully inspire people to take action & demand the ban of gay conversion therapy.
Boy Erased was seen by me at an advance screening at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Monday, November 5, 2018; it will start showing at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI & the United Artists Commerce Township Stadium 14 in Commerce Township, MI on Friday, November 9, 2018; it will expand further starting Friday, November 16, 2018. Its runtime is 114 minutes, & it is rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language & brief drug use.