Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Movie with Abe: Boy Erased

Boy Erased
Directed by Joel Edgerton
Released November 2, 2018

The relationship between religion and sexuality is very complicated, and usually the associations between the two are not positive given scriptural references that indicate less traditional understandings of gender and attraction as forbidden and abhorrent. Modern interpretations are far more liberal and accepting of those whose personal and family values differ from what has been established over many centuries, but it’s hardly the standard. Many still experience extremely negative and often truly disturbing responses to their attempts to express themselves.

Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is the only son of Marshall, a Baptist preacher (Russell Crowe), and his wife Nancy (Nicole Kidman) living in Arkansas. Harrowing events at college lead Marshall and Nancy to receive a call that Jared has engaged in purportedly sinful activity, and Jared, aware that he is attracted to men, accepts his father’s decision to send him to a conversion therapy program. As he meets Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), the charismatic man in charge of the program, Jared begins to understand that what he sees as a perfectly logical process to get back to what he is supposed to be is an awful and truly damaging thing with brutal and damaging implications.

This is the second major film this year to deal with conversion therapy, with “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” taking a more comedic look at a camp with similar aims. While that film takes its inspiration from real-life events and is based on a novel, this one is adapted specifically from Garrard Conley’s memoir of his own experiences going through this program and then deciding to expose it to the world. While it’s impossible to truly grasp what he experienced, this film paints a vivid and highly unsettling portrait that is at times very difficult to watch, and appropriately so.

Hedges, who is just twenty-one years old, has been working steadily for the past two years since his Oscar nomination for “Manchester by the Sea,” with major roles in two other films this year. His performance here is simple but passionate, conflicted about his feelings but unresistant to his situation until he sees it for what it is. Edgerton, who also wrote and directed the film, casts himself in a very effective role as the influencer of these young minds, twisting convenient verses and facts to his manipulative advantage. Russell Crowe also turns in a subdued and thoughtful take on Jared’s father, who can’t possibly reconcile who Jared might be with his beliefs. This film does its subject matter justice, confronting hard truths through the incredible and important story of one person who managed to survive this terrible process.


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