- 08 Feb 19
CRUELTY OF GAY CONVERSION THERAPY IS NECESSARILY – IF PREDICTABLY – HIGHLIGHTED IN WELL-ACTED DRAMA
In America, it is still legal in 36 states to force minors into “gay conversion therapy”, a heinous fact that Joel Edgerton tackles in this adaptation of Garrad Conley’s memoir.
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea, Lady Bird) plays Jared, who struggles to accept his attraction to men following his Baptist upbringing. After a devastating scene that shows him being raped by a fellow college student, who later outs him to his parents, Jared returns home, traumatised and seeking safety. But his religious parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) believe his sexuality is a problem that can be fixed, and send him to a conversion camp. It’s a testament to the empathy expressed by Crowe and Kidman that Jared’s parents are presented not as violent homophobics, but as two people who simultaneously love their son and are catastrophically wrong in their desire to “help” him.
Along with participating in humiliating and voyeuristic confessionals and gender conformity classes, attendees of the ‘Love In Action’ camp experience emotional, psychological and physical abuse to varying degrees.
Hedges impresses every second he’s onscreen, capturing the confusion, fear and quiet defiance of his character. But much like last month’s Beautiful Boy which saw Timothee Chalamet play a young drug addict, the lead performance is more complex and interesting than the film as a whole, which presents a worthy topic through the very limited and predictable lens of a privileged character.
Experiences of the supporting characters, such as gay teens who can’t pass as straight as easily as Jared, remain unexplored. Jared’s recovery from his rape, and forgiveness of his parents, happen so quickly as to undermine the complexity of those experiences. Thus, Boy Erased remains underbaked, with the dull colour scheme and unimaginative camera-work adding to the malaise.