Boy Erased, written for the screen and directed by Joel Edgerton, is a challenging and emotionally turbulent story that had me totally attentive from the beginning and throughout. There are some structural issues and some pacing issues that make Boy Erased not seem as effective as it could have been, but those were issues for me because I was so invested in the film and simply wanted more of it. So, let’s see if the issues that effect the film do an amount of harm that causes it to be a film you should pass on, or if there’s still something potent enough to warrant you making the trip to the cinema to see it.
Based upon the true story, we follow the struggles of Jared Eamons – portrayed by Lucas Hedges – as he reveals too his very religious parents (his father being the preacher for the town they live in) that he is gay. Their response is to send him to conversion therapy where he encounters Victor Sykes – portrayed by Joel Edgerton – who through the teachings of God tries to brainwash him and many other children into believing their sexuality is sinful and can be altered. It’s a battle that isn’t easy for Jared but it’s a worthy one he must fight.
What I think is a real testament to how effective and moving Boy Erased was, is that my primary issue with the film comes from me wanting more in-depth exploration of its poignantly touching characters and their stories.
Structurally, Boy Erased isn’t able to fully explore its expansive, emotionally powerful story to the extent I wish it had. It’s often the case that the film had to touch upon moments but never go into any real depth with them. They still make an impact – there are quite a few moments in this film that hit hard and leave an emotional mark – but after the initial impact, further exploration of it doesn’t really happen. The film would quickly move on and the repercussions were never properly felt.
It’s also in the pacing of these moments that it feels like the film lets them down. There were quite a few times where I really wanted the film to slow it down, give a chance for the severity of a revelation or consequence to play out and simply allow we the audience and the characters to exist in that moment and take it all in. I wanted to exist in those moments with the characters and feel the real pain and struggle that they caused. But too often the film would barrel on through and not really give the time that was necessary for the full breadth of emotion to be felt.
But again, it’s a testament to just how engaging the film’s story and characters are, that my main gripe with it is that it didn’t give me more of what I was so thoroughly enamoured with. Because despite the film not always doing its content justice, I still never found myself bored or detached from it. It was quite the opposite in fact. I never stopped being fully hooked by this film. I continually found myself wanting to engage with Jared’s story and I continually found myself giving over my emotional centre to be challenged and pushed to its limits.
And what of course played a large part in those emotional tests and the level of engagement that was forever present with the film was Jared himself and the relationship he had with his parents. Jared goes through some unimaginably horrible things, and in all of it he is simply an innocent boy who’s afraid, alone and unsure of what path to take. How can you not connect to him, care for him and want to see his story turn out for the best? It’s both in the excellent performance by Lucas Hedges – who just seems to go from strength to strength in his acting career – and the direction by Joel Edgerton – both an actor and a director whom I love – that Jared shines so prominently on-screen. Taking Jared’s real-life story and treating it with dignity and care, the two artists brought a boy/man’s story to the screen in a way that was heartfelt and meaningful.
This is a story that is timeless and one that anyone can find something in it that they connect with and understand. Whether it’s someone struggling with their sexual identity or someone whose relationship with their mother or father is extremely strained, or it could simply be feeling alone and without the comfort and care of something or someone you believe in and wish so deeply that they were there to help you. There’s something all-encompassing about Jared’s story and it is a story that I found myself truly moved by.
I am definitely going to recommend, Boy Erased. It’s certainly not an easy film to sit through at times, but it’s a film that will stay with you and feel like a fulfilling journey by the end. Make the effort to catch this one when it comes around your way and support a film that deserves to have its message and its story seen and heard.
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