Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Film: 'Boy Erased'

Had to suspend my own rule of not being out after dark to get to this 'must-see' film -  leaving at dusk and returning at my bed-time. Turned out to be a good decision.

The second film within twelve months (following 'The Miseducation of Cameron Post') on the subject of religious 'gay conversion therapy', this has had generally fairly positive reviews but more than once I've seen unfavourable comparisons with the earlier film. I'm not so sure such 'criticism' bears out.

Set in recent past (and filmed in Atlanta, Georgia) it's directed and written by Joel Edgerton in only his second feature film as director (based on memoir of actual experiences by Garrard Conley), Edgerton himself takes the frighteningly credible major role of 'conversion centre' chief to which the teenage Lucas Hedges ('Three Billboards', 'Manchester by the Sea') is sent by his parents after their son has been 'outed' to them, he willingly agreeing. The father (Russell Crowe) is a firm but soft-spoken Baptist pastor and his wife (Nicole Kidman - in startling bouffant wig!) devotedly religious though superficially sympathetic. Both Crowe and Kidman are quite superb, convincingly skirting round the topic while hardly daring to directly confront their son - except when his father does one time ask outright "Are you homosexual?"   
At the institute there are about a dozen or more new 'entrants' with various 'problems' as perceived, of which being gay is the most prominent. Regime is strict, possessions removed, all communications supervised and monitored - with regular open confessions of 'sinfulness' to the group, with details demanded by the martinet of a facilitator which Edgerton plays. The son is not totally isolated, however, with him able to spend some nights in a hotel with his mother, though forbidden to divulge details of his 'treatment'. 

The requirements of the institute and its treatment of its 'inmates' made me progressively angrier. Often the way a film is made will exasperate me and get my ire up, but here the subject matter itself was the explosive issue which raised my temper. We must assume that the methods of attempted 'conversion' depicted here are reasonably accurate and if so, one can only wonder how they are still allowed to be practised. (Unlike in Germany, where 'conversion therapy' has recently been outlawed nationally. despite the British government pledging last year to do the same, it yet remains a promise unfulfilled. In America, one can only hope that Veep Pence, ardent supporter of such harmful and ineffective devices, will see this film, though it's unlikely that he would - and even if he did I fear it wouldn't make any difference to him.)

This present film, unlike the earlier 'Cameron Post', did get a strong visceral response of outrage in me, even though I found it easier to relate to the characters in the other, notwithstanding the fact that Cameron Post was a young lesbian. However, I did dock a half-point from my rating for 'Post' for the too prevalent inaudible mumblings of the main star. In this one there was a bit of that same fault from the young Hedges (not from the three main adults, however), so when it comes down to it I'm pleased to adorn 'Boy Erased' with an untrimmed..................7

(IMDb..........7.0 / Rott. Toms............6.9 )


  1. I enjoyed Cameron Post more, more fun and I liked the ending of them running away although I seem to recall at the time you didn't like that ending being not a proper ending. Boy Erased was a bit heavy on the parents and at the ending with the New York Times articles when he was talking about them I thought the boy was over smug with his father.

  2. Yes, having checked back on my 'Cameron Post' thoughts I did register surprise at the unexpected ending, though not because it didn't tie things up neatly - far be it from me to mind that happening when it only reflects true life not being lived in well-defined instalments.
    If it hadn't been for the lazy diction of Chloe Grace Moretz I would have given that film the same rating as this.
    I take your point about the cosiness of the 'Erased finish, but all in all it's the fact that this film engaged me rather more than the other, and that given a forced choice I'd plump for this one - but there's not much between them.

  3. I haven't seen, or even heard of the 'Cameron Post' film, but I did enjoy [not quite the right word] Boy Erased. Partially because I adore Kidman but also because, like the you, the reaction of outrage I got from the film.
    The whole idea of "conversion" sickens me. It reminds me of those parents who discovered their child smoked and then making them smoke one cigarette after another until they got sick to "cure" them.
    It's an assault in both cases.

    1. Pity you haven't got to see the 'other one', Bob. That and this make a good pairing, different enough to avoid many overlaps.
      Kidman in this I thought was as good as she's ever been - and that really is saying something. I'd put her right up there with Glenn Close for acting ability, about as close as you can get to the Streep excellence.
      The statistics about harm done by this kind of 'therapy' (Hah!) makes for sobering reflection. How ANY country can still allow this invidious practice to continue is beyond me - yet, as we all know, it's the power of the Xtians who think they're doing the right thing by forcing everyone to go to Heaven whether or not we believe in such fantasies.

  4. I'm happy that "Boy" is now being given a larger theatrical release and you were able to see it on the big screen. I was pleased to see it on VOD where I automatically turn on "closed captioning" and suffer no loss of dialogue.

    No surprise that in this era of Trump, Pence and the Evangelicals, such cruelty exists.

    On the subject of Hedges, I hope you get to see "Ben Is Back" which had no theatrical release here, but hopefully will have a release in the UK.

    PS. Hope our wish come true and Close gets her long overdue Oscar this Sunday.

  5. I'd remembered that you'd asked a few weeks back whether I'd be seeing this film, Paul, without you giving away what you thought, and that was one of the reasons why I exceptionally made the effort (and took the 'risk'!) of being out late. I've no regrets.
    It was a stroke of luck that it came here, a smallish town with just four screens and showing only on four evenings, when it didn't go to any of nearby Brighton's THREE art-house screens - Brighton of all places, the gayest town in the entire country! Sometimes there's no accounting for what happens!

    I'd not heard of 'Ben is Back' but looking it up I see it gets a British release mid-March so I'll look out for it.
    I didn't recall Hedges' name even though he's been in several films I have seen - probably, being still young, in parts which didn't register strongly enough to remember.

    I do hope Glenn Close gets her long-awaited reward this Sun. At least at the Oscars that particular prize won't be as pre-ordained as the BAFTA was for Olivia Coleman, though I do fear that the latter is still going to get it.

  6. I saw Boy Erased before the Miseducation. I have heard about the book on which it is based and really wanted to see what Egerton had done with it. With two big stars attached, it did kind of assure that wider audience that Cameron maybe didn't completely reach.
    Boy Erased is, as you say, visceral in the sense that we can absolutely see the lethal effects of the reparative therapy that the American VP spouses.

    1. I agree that Kidman and Crowe did give the film a kind of 'validation' (if one were needed!) which might have helped anyone who might not otherwise have been interested in the subject matter - and I'm sure there must be some - and thereby increasing its potential audience. It also helped that they were both very good in this, but then Nicole Kidman always is good no matter what film she's in.