Two years ago “Moonlight” made history as the first film with an LGBT protagonist to win the Oscar for Best Picture. “Call Me by Your Name” followed the next year with a Best Picture nomination for its same-sex romance. We’ve come a long way since “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). Now comes “Boy Erased,” which opened November 2 and addresses the abusive practice of gay conversion therapy. Will it follow in the footsteps of its recent Oscar winning LGBT predecessors?
Based on a 2016 memoir of the same name by Garrard Conley, “Boy Erased” stars Lucas Hedges as Jared Eamons (the names have been changed for the purposes of the film), the son of devout Christian parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) who is sent to pray away the gay. This adaptation was written and directed by Joel Edgerton, who is best known as an actor and recently starred in another film, “Loving” (2016), that also dealt with characters persecuted for who they loved: the real-life interracial couple whose legal battle struck down anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. This is Edgerton’s second feature film behind the camera, following the thriller “The Gift” (2015).
As of this writing “Boy Erased” has a MetaCritic score of 70 based on 24 reviews. Its Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating is 83% based on 71 reviews, and the RT critics consensus says it’s “anchored in empathy” by Edgerton’s writing and direction and “proves the road to complex, powerfully performed drama can also be paved with good intentions.” Critics say that Edgerton “brilliantly takes viewers on Jared’s tumultuous journey” in a way that is “admirably and almost radically empathetic,” even to its seemingly unsympathetic characters. Hedges plays the lead role with “deep soulfulness”; he’s a “terrific, sensitive actor,” and “there isn’t a false note in his performance.”
Check out some of the reviews below, and discuss this and more with your fellow movie fans in our forums.
Tiffany Tchobanian (Film Threat): “Joel Edgerton was instantly taken with Garrad’s touching story of self-discovery, faith, family, acceptance, and love. The result is a breathtaking film that evokes empathy and inspires thoughtful dialogue … In his sophomore feature film endeavor as a writer, director, and co-star, Edgerton brilliantly takes viewers on Jared’s tumultuous journey by revealing his unspoken experiences to us.”
Lindsey Bahr (Associated Press): “Joel Edgerton has adapted for the screen in a manner that is admirably and almost radically empathetic to all its characters — even the villains. In the film, the protagonist is called Jared Eamons, giving a little distance perhaps from the real life subjects. He is played with deep soulfulness by the talented actor Lucas Hedges.”
Stephanie Zacharek (Time): “‘Boy Erased’ sometimes feels more like a sturdy dramatic exercise than a viscerally potent work … The best scenes in ‘Boy Erased’ are the most understated ones, flashbacks in which we see Jared navigating basic teenage emotional stuff, like figuring out how to rebuff his high school girlfriend’s sexual advances without hurting her feelings. Hedges is such a terrific, sensitive actor that he makes even these small moments wrenching.”
Stephen Farber (Hollywood Reporter): “Actor-filmmakers can generally be counted on to encourage and bolster compelling performances, and this is certainly one of the great strengths of Joel Edgerton’s second film as director, ‘Boy Erased’ … Hedges has demonstrated his skill in supporting roles in several other films (most notably ‘Manchester by the Sea’), but here he carries the entire show and is alternately frightened, bewildered and defiant. There isn’t a false note in his performance.”
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