Film Review – Boy Erased (2018)

by Olaf Lesniak
Boy Erased

We are now in the middle of the award season, the time of the year that brings us the best there is in film. It’s when the often avoided themes get their proper spotlight. Today those themes are reflected in Boy Erased with quite a wallop. Namely, the conflict between LGBT values and religion.

This following review will be spoiler free.


Directed By: Joel Edgerton

Written By: Kerry Kohansky Roberts, Steve Golin, and Joel Edgerton

Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, and Troye Sivan

When your father is a pastor and your mother a strong believer, it might be difficult to tell your parents you’re gay. Our main character, Jared (Hedges), has to go through this exact problem and as a result, he ends up in a gay conversion therapy program. There, he struggles to choose what’s best for him and his parents while facing the true nature of the place.


Joel Edgerton has returned with his second directorial effort after the 2015’s The Gift. With a warm critical reception and $59 million in the bank off of a $5 million budget, he became a sought-after talent. The doors were open and he chose a topic very dear to the Academy. Coincidence?

The film did screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the recent Oscar winners go beforehand. Given the sudden emergence of the discussion surrounding gay conversion camps, it’ll be interesting to see whether that will have any effect on its chances. You throw in Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and Lucas Hedges into the conversation and you got yourself an awards headliner. What the Oscars usually look for is something both relevant and prestigious. Time to ensure it too can hit the latter as well as the former.

Boy Erased Doesn’t Hold Back

Boy Erased

image via Stereogum

There’s something effective seeing reality gets its proper due, when someone unveils the hidden truths. The movie isn’t afraid to show the nitty-gritty details that will leave you with a certain level of distress at what’s happening. I’m not only talking about the conversion camps. This is as much about the things we never say because of shame.

The film doesn’t play with a lot of light subjects, yet it’s approachable. A lot of its moments seem — and sometimes are — peaceful. So when you’re exposed to its unsavory elements, it leaves an impact. The unique metric ranges from sad to uncomfortable to pathological.

Boy Erased Takes Time Getting Used To

The narrative structure doesn’t feel right until a couple of minutes pass when you see what Edgerton is going for. In full, it is the finer approach. The format ends up complimenting the story albeit the opening could have smoothed itself out to let the viewer in easily.

Boy Erased

image via

It’s moments like these I begin asking myself if it wasn’t a better idea to let the director experiment with his style more before visibly reaching for awards credence. You have Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe all at your disposal. They both do an exceptional job and follow-up on the emotional rhythm of the trepidations contained. Nicole Kidman especially shines with rays of optimism and hope, yet I’m not entirely convinced the framing gives us her a full spotlight.

These aren’t deal breakers, yet they taint its strength when greater depth is necessary. Consistency is amiss when it comes to style. It’s visible in the music, too. The tunes themselves are endearing. Their implementation? Not so much.

Boy Erased

image via The Advocate

A performance I can’t blame on the director was sadly Lucas Hedges’s. His breakout role in Manchester By the Sea left me wanting more. Now, it’s as if a slightly less capable version came to take his place.

That role couldn’t have been just a fluke when those same rays of potential are here. But as of now, Hedges’ Achilles heel is monologues that require signs of confidence. What should have been a clear scene of the film didn’t end up living up to its potential because of the line delivery and the lines themselves. The characterization in it was off, as if Jared suddenly lost his humility and snarkily became something else.

A Beginning of Something Promising

Where shots don’t maximize the actors, they have the opposite effect when it comes to visual storytelling — likely the biggest take away from the Boy Erased. It becomes clear that Edgerton shot these scenes with a vision set in mind. It’s here he finds his defining traits.

Boy Erased

image via Variety

There is also a strong presence of revolving motives. Equally, they create a certain essence which serves the triumphant resonance that turns the film into a reward. Details like these add a confident sign of progress, making it more than a forgettable go at the genre.

The movie opens needed conversations and never does so by taking a stand which aims to convince the differing opinion. No further commentary is required. Boy Erased is an honest and well-crafted depiction.

Final Thoughts

Boy Erased

image via Time

The thought-out structure, depictions and themes in Boy Erased make it an engaging feature. The underutilized skills of the actors and their staging stem from too many styles that mix with each other. This might hurt its chances come award season.

Even if you don’t like films like The Shape of Water or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, you cannot question their filmmaking prowess. With Boy Erased, it’s a bit different. It’s a movie from which you’ll take something away — not just topic wise. It’s a story deserving of its source material, but as of now, Joel Edgerton will have to settle for a silver medal instead of a golden statue.

Whatever it be, Joel Edgerton has a bright future ahead.

Grade: B

Thank you for reading! What did you think about Boy Erased? Comment down below!

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