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An open, generous performance from Lucas Hedges carries this earnestly intended movie from writer-director Joel Edgerton, who has adapted the memoir by Garrard Conley about his painful experiences in a Christian anti-gay conversion camp for teenagers in Arkansas. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play the deeply upset Christian parents of 18-year-old Jared (Hedges) and Edgerton himself plays the unspeakable camp director, Victor Sykes.
This is a movie without the comedy and lightness that Desiree Akhavan brought to her own recent movie on the subject, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, about a young woman. The contrast may have something to do with gender difference. Just like that film, though, Boy Erased has a similarity to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with one character here very much in the role of Native American Chief Bromden. Like Chloë Grace Moretz’s Cameron and Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy, Jared realises too late that he isn’t there for a fixed term (during which he could conceivably pretend to go along with it) but indefinitely, until the authorities are satisfied that the gay has been prayed away.
Jared is an only child adored by his dad, a lay preacher with a car dealership, and his sweet-natured, traditional mom. But he is concealing his sexual identity from them. It emerges in the aftermath of an ugly, violent experience away at college, so Jared gets sent to this sinister and preposterous camp, run by Sykes. His fellow trainees – the old borstal phrase makes a certain sense – include the agonised Jon (a rather broad performance from award-winning director Xavier Dolan) and the coolly cynical Gary (played by Australian singing star and YouTuber Troye Sivan, who supplies the soundtrack song Revelation).
The story pans out in ways that are more or less predictable, and the traditional twist in the tale about what homophobes are suppressing within themselves is supplied in the closing credits. At all events, it shows how homophobia creates credulous, fearful people vulnerable to the snake-oil con trick of “conversion”.
Source: The Guardian
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