Dir.: Joel Edgerton; Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Xavier Dolan, Britton Sear; USA 2018, 114.min.
After his promising first feature Gift, Joel Edgerton overreaches himself with this disjointed drama lacking the emotional heft that the weighty subject matter deserves. And while some scenes have impact, for the most part Boy Erased feels rather clunky and underwhelming.
Edgerton bases his narrative on the memoirs of Garrad Conley, one of 700 000 gay minors who have become the victims of the Christian Conversion Therapy, still practiced in 36 US states. Lucas Hedges plays teenage Jared Eamons coming to terms with being gay in his highly conventional Baptist family. His father Marshall (Crowe), is a bigoted Baptist preacher and his hairdresser mother Nancy (Kidman), too weak to stand up to him in an effective way. Just before he goes starts college, Jared breaks up with his girl friend on account of his sexual motivations and finds himself paying for his sins at a fundamental Christian Conversion Institution, run by the vicious fanatic Victor Sykes (Edgerton). And Jared is not alone is feeling the wrath of God in this insufferable hell hole, joined by one dimensional characters like John (Dolan) and Cameron (Sear), who does his best to be a pal, before committing suicide.
Both Crowe and Kidman ham it parlously, and Kidman is particularly unconvincing as Nancy. Hedges is the standout, doing his best to flesh out Jared’s character despite his crass lines. DoP Eduard Grau’s attempts to break down the stultifying atmosphere with some fine camerawork, but to no avail. Edgerton seems very much at home with the schlock-horror environment of his debut, but he shouldn’t be let loose – for a long time – with material which deserves a serious approach. AS
ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE from Friday 8 February 2019