October 10, 2018

VIFF 2018 | Joel Edgerton Converts 'Boy Erased'

"You may have to walk away from everything, everyone."
Lucas Hedges Joel Edgerton | Boy Erased | VIFF 2018

VIFF 2018—Australian actor/director Joel Edgerton thoughtfully dramatizes Garrard Conley's memoir about his experiences growing up in a fundamentalist Arkansas family and enduring gay conversion therapy. Boy Erased is a moving and earnest portrayal of the struggles in dealing with love and acceptance in conservative American communities.

It's impressive how quickly Lucas Hedges has come along as a versatile young actor. As Jared, a fictionalized version of Garrad, he offers an interesting portrait of a closeted teen who mostly passes in his deeply religious family. His experiences aren't nearly as dramatic or abusive as others, but we see the love and struggle his identity brings up and how this conflict boils as he enters treatment to "cure" his homosexual desires.

Framed through his entry into a mysterious gay conversion program led by moustached and dubious Egerton, we see flashback's to Jared's conflicted experiences that led to his outing and ultimately therapy. It's inventively constructed to build Hedge's performance through his development as a young adult and comfort with his own sexuality.

Lucas Hedges Joel Edgerton | Boy Erased | VIFF 2018

Fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe do their best Southern accents as Jared's sympathetic but deeply conflicted parents. Kidman lifts her standard material but shows a true sense of motherly love and devotion despite her clear loyalty to God, Jesus, and Baptist preacher husband. Around them, Edgerton's cast of supporting players is deep and eclectic with an interesting mix of character turns from the likes of Troye Sivan, Xavier Dolan, Joe Alwyn, and Flea.

Edgerton's film is a sensitive and impeccably directed dramatization of Conley's sombre memoir. Hedges, Crowe, and Kidman make for a dynamic familial triumvirate. Boy Erased thankfully works beyond its positive themes of homosexuality to make for a touching portrait of conflict in love with respect to religious families.

Boy Erased screened at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Panorama stream.

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