By : Shane J Alliew
Based on American author Garrard Conley’s memoir (2016) of the same name, Boy Erased, directed by Australian actor, director, producer, writer, filmmaker Joel Edgerton is a sensitive, poignant story based on a gay conversion therapy programme.
Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is the son of a successful car dealer and Baptist Mission Preacher, Marshall (Academy Award winner Russell Crowe) and his self-styled hairdresser wife Nancy (Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman), living in Arkansas.
While Jared begins the first day at the (ironic) Love in Action conversion therapy programme, meant to transform gay men and women back into ‘normal’, he takes an absolute aversion to the Chief therapist Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) who wants to drill into them that their choice of sexuality is predominantly due to poor parenting. Victor instructs them to perform harsh rosters of themselves and their family members, forbidding them to talk to anyone outside, of what takes place at the programme.
In a series of flashbacks, it is learnt that Jared was raped by another peer Henry (Joe Alwyn) whilst in college, one night. Jared returns home traumatized, whilst his parents receive a call from Henry (posing as a counsellor) outing Jared. When confronted by his father, he does not give out any details of that night but confesses to being attracted to other men.
In a true religiously-moralistic style Marshall sends for other pastors to speak with Jared who much against his will coerce him to join the Love in Action programme.
Nancy rents a hotel room nearby where Jared comes to sleep each night, looking and feeling worse than before, yet refuses to speak a word of the day’s occourances. While the other residents undergo harrowing experiences, from insults to fake funeral services and being beaten by other residents and family members with bibles, Jared begins to come to terms with himself and his innermost feelings, which he now believes cannot be, under any circumstances, ‘converted’ or changed.
In a much-dramatic and tensed sequence, Nancy rescues her son and now puts her foot down before her husband, on the total withdrawal of Jared from the programme.
Boy Erased seeks some extraordinary electric drama performances from its leading star cast – of course you have two Academy Award winners, but the show is stolen by Hedges, who reminds you of a younger version of the great Australian actor Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (a championing same-sex love saga).
In his nuances of acceptance and illusion, Hedges, personifies a modern day tragic-struck Hamlet, with his same-sex love as his hamartia, as perceived by others, yet which causes him to rise as a phoenix at the end.
Several gay love stories have caused one to get out of the theatres, heavy-hearted, emotionally dissatisfied and depressed, Boy Erased does just not that. It is elevating and liberating conveying the subtle message of hope – not for acceptance, but that true love and love for one’s self, will always win in the end.