Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Glass Of Wine At The Movies - Boy Erased

Boy Erased

Rating: 14A (Canada) / R (USA)

Director: Joel Edgerton

Language: English

Length:  114 minutes

Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe

Viewing Method: Regular Screening

Release Date: November 2, 2018 (limited)

Synopsis: Jared Eamons, the son of a small-town Baptist pastor, must overcome the fallout after being outed as gay to his parents. His father and mother struggle to reconcile their love for their son with their beliefs. Fearing a loss of family, friends and community, Jared is pressured into attending a conversion therapy program. While there, Jared comes into conflict with its leader and begins his journey to finding his own voice and accepting his true self.

Lucas Hedges was, once again, an award season darling last year. He was, along with Timothee Chalamet, one of the 'it boys' to grace the awards trail. He offers up another solid performance in Boy Erased. A movie that you know is going to be a tough viewing experience before you even enter the theater. A story of a young man sent to conversion therapy should ignite some strong emotions. Those emotions are there, along with some great performances, but I was also surprised at the amount of hope it instills as well.

Hedges, as mentioned previously, shines as Jared. He ensures that every emotion Jared is feeling registers with the audience. The hurt, the anger, the moments of happiness, and the eventual healing are all display. It's a performance that adds to a resume that is already pretty impressive for his age.

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play Jared's parents. Two religious people who are struggling with the fact that their son is gay and what it means in relation to their faith. This movie could have made them monsters. It could have made them be nothing more than a punchline or a joke. Instead this movie takes a more subtle, thoughtful approach. Kidman's Nancy is a mother struggling with what her faith says and the love she has for her son. She, much sooner than Crowe's Marshall, offers the hope this movie needs. Her love for her son shines through even when you're angry at the choices she is making. It's a more nuanced approached to this type of character that I think works for the story being told. Crowe's character never questions things the way Nancy does. He is steadfast in his belief, even as it impacts his relationships with his wife and son. The complexity of the family dynamics was welcome and well developed.

Joe Alwyn has a memorable, and very brief, turn as Henry, a young man Jared befriends at his college. There is, in particular, one scene featuring his character that lingered with me long after I finished the movie. In a movie filled with hard scenes it stands out. It's a brutal, gut punch that I wasn't expecting in the slightest. It is unsettling and is something that exists outside of the conversion therapy center Jared attends, but adds to the theme and greater story being told.

The pain and far reaching consequences of conversion therapy, and the culture that embraces it, are a large part of the message of this movie. We see what it does to people to have it drilled into them that they are 'wrong' or 'unworthy'. We see the self loathing it can lead to and what that pain can drive someone to do. We see the fractures it creates not just in the people experiencing it but those around them. The marriage of Jared's parents is one example of a relationship drastically altered because of Jared's experience and their role in it.

This movie, at times, feels less like Jared's story and more like it is trying to tell everyone's story. It makes the emotional beats hit just a little less deeply than they should have. It means that the audience is not as invested in his story. I was plenty angry about the overall situation, but it makes the characters themselves seem secondary to the over arching plot of the movie. It, for me, ultimately made this a good movie instead of a great one.

I left Boy Erased filled with rage and that is obviously what this movie intended. I was angry for all of the Jared's out there. I was heartbroken for all of the people who have lived this experience. This movie adeptly showcases the damage these conversion therapy programs cause and showcases how none of the people put through it come out without scars. If only the people who most needed to see it were actually the ones watching it. 

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