SSFF REVIEW — “Boy Erased
Starting off with an easy one
Boy Erased is written and directed by Joel Edgerton, stars Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, and Troye Sivan. It tells the true story of Jared Eamons (real name Garrard Conley), the son of a Baptist preacher who is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents. Now, if you didn’t see our Facebook post, I had the pleasure of attending the SCAD Savannah Film Festival last week, and one of the films I had the pleasure to see was Boy Erased, a film I was particularly excited for, as I am a huge fan of Edgerton as both an actor and a director. That coupled with the stellar cast assembled here, I could not wait to see it. So, having seen it, what did I think? Boy Erased is a painful look into a truly disturbing world that showcases fantastic performances from its’ cast, as well as spirited and strong direction from Edgerton.
So, Edgerton is directing here and he does an expectedly fantastic job. He already proved himself a gifted director with 2015’s The Gift, which was a delightfully fresh thriller, but he solidifies himself as a talent to watch with this. This is a whole different ballpark for Edgerton and he does a great job with the dense and challenging material. Boy Erased is an intense experience, delivering some of the most disturbing and uncomfortable scenes of the year. It’s heartbreaking and often shocking. Nothing is played up for the screen and Edgerton’s direction is unflinching. It can be heartwarming and sweet, and then instantly turn gross and hard to watch. There is such an energy here that I found myself riveted throughout. I hope Edgerton continues to direct because I’ll continue to watch.
Edgerton also penned the script and he does a great job. This may be in part to do with the fact that he had some great source material to work with, but the script is strong regardless. Boy Erased has a surprising amount of nuance and understanding. When dealing with this subject matter, it would be easy to paint many characters as hateful and bigoted people, but Edgerton and Conley don’t do that. These characters are complex, they’re not just hateful and ignorant, but confused and scared. This doesn’t mean Edgerton gives them a pass, it’s very clear what they’re doing is wrong, but he provides insight into why they’re doing what they’re doing. Instead of villainizing those who would be easy to villainize, he contextualizes their flawed viewpoints. This is also a very powerful and moving story, showcasing a real taboo present in Amercian society. The only flaw with his script is that it can be a bit jumbled and messy, as it jumps around time a lot and takes a while to really get into the meat of the story. Regardless, I admire Conley for sharing this truly harrowing and difficult story, and Edgerton does a great job adapting it for the screen.
I’ll just state the obvious, the cast does a phenomenal job here. Lucas Hedges delivers another fantastic performance, proving once again he’s one of our most promising actors. He and Timmy are really battling for America’s heart. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe also deliver very strong and complex performances, often pulling on the audience’s heartstrings. Joel Edgerton also delivers a strong performance, proving him as a powerful triple threat in the film industry. Xavier Dolan was also quite good. Some more pretentious viewers may recognize him as the director of Mommy, a great foreign film from 2014, but regardless he was a welcome addition to the cast. No performances are particularly bad and our leads are delivering some of the best performances of the year. I expect to see their names pop up around award season, and I hope to see more strong work from Hedges.
On a technical level, Boy Erased does a fine job. The editing is very sharp and crisp, leading to a very visceral and intense experience for the audience. The cinematography is often very strong and Edgerton utilized many long takes and camera movement, allowing the audience to be all the more immersed. The score, while not particularly memorable, also services the scenes very well and adds a nice amount of atmosphere to an already intense scene. Overall, Boy Erased is very solid on a technical level, even if it isn’t too impressive. While this may seem like a negative, everything else about the film is so strong that you’ll be unbothered bits’ plain technical aspects.
So, as you can tell, I really enjoyed Boy Erased. It doesn’t change cinema, but it’s a very effective and powerful drama that showcases strong direction and acting across the board. 4/5