Well-acted gay conversion drama can't light a fire
The horrors of gay conversion therapy are put on display in director Joel Edgerton's "Boy Erased," a well-intentioned drama that, unfortunately, misses its mark.
Lucas Hedges, one of today's best young actors, stars as Jared Eamons, an Arkansas teen struggling with his sexuality. His parents (played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) are unsure what to do about his homosexual leanings; Jared is unsure what to do about them as well, which add to his confusion. He's sent off to Love in Action, where Victor Sykes (Edgerton) heads up a program to pray away the gay, or at least keep the checks rolling in while intimidating his young subjects to repress their "sexual sins."
"Boy Erased" is based on the 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley, and it attempts to understand all sides of the equation, from Jared to his parents to even Sykes and his program. But that fairness is an emotional restraint, and doesn't allow "Boy Erased" to drum up the passion it should have in abundance.
Like this year's "The Miseducation of Cameron Post," which handled a similar story, there's an emotional disconnect between the dangerous reality of the situation and what is presented on-screen, and you end up wanting both films to hit home more than they are able to do. (In one example of the film dropping the ball, Edgerton includes a post-script about Sykes' own sexuality that seems worthy of much more than a post-script.)
Like "Cameron Post," "Boy Erased" is set in the not-distant-enough past; gay conversion camps are still a reality, somehow. "Boy Erased" has its heart in the right place in exposing these supposed treatment centers. But where it should light a fire, it barely musters any smoke.
Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use
Running time: 114 minutes