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Boy Erased Review - Exceptional Character Driven Performances Drive this Religious Drama

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Boy Erased, from Focus Features, presents the true story of a Pentecostal preacher and his son, whom after discovering he is gay presents to him the option of attending conversion therapy or leaving his family forever.

Directed, written and starring Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased also stars Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges, Xavier Dolan, Troye Slvan, Jesse LaTourette, Britton Sear, David Ditmore, Matt Burke, William Ngo, Emily Hinkler, David Joseph, Craig, Lindsey Moser, David Joseph Craig, Victor McCay, Flea, Tim Ware, Joe Alwyn, Theodore Pellerin, Madelyn Cline and Cherry Jones.

Boy Erased begins in church with Marshall Eamons, played by Russell Crowe preaching to his congregation. He mentions his wife, Nancy Eamons, played by Nicole Kidman and son Jared, played by Lucas Hedges.


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They are a devoted family, not only to God, but also to each other. Jared is an only child and the apple of his mother’s eye. By all appearances they are a normal family without dysfunction or serious bumps. They are believers and the life they live reflects a life devoted to Christ and the teachings of the bible.

As the film moves along we see Marshall, who in addition to preaching at the local church owns a major car dealership. Nancy is a stay at home mom and wife, tending to making the home a welcoming and restful place.

Jared, now a senior in high school, a basketball player, with a cheerleader girlfriend, who also attends his church and just when it looks like there are no unexpected and life altering surprises she attempts to compromise what appears to be a devotion to celibacy or at least not until he is ready. Right now, in the new car his dad just gave him doesn’t seem to be the time or the place.

Soon the family is packing him up for college, and of course with the hot wheels his dad gave him, he turns the heads of everyone. Soon, he has a running buddy, Henry, played by Joe Alwyn, and the two attend church together.

One night after a run, Jared who has done well to suppress his attraction to men and he appears to be sorting out the feelings: Are they friendship or sexual? The audience isn’t privy to his thoughts during this time.

Henry and Jared are hanging out playing video games and Jared’s roommate is away and so Henry hops into the top bunk and acts as if he is sleeping. Jared who is still unsure of his feelings, appears surprised, which makes sense when Henry climbs into his bed.

The scene that follows is very disturbing, as Henry is not attempting to initiate a romantic liaison with him, he is a violent predator and rapes Jared. He covers his mouth, prevents him from screaming, pins him down and forcibly sodomizes him.

What follows next is common in the church. As soon as he is finished, he explains, tearfully, how he is sorry, and please forgive me, hear my confession, I didn’t mean to do it, I’m afflicted, please don't tell anyone, don't go to the police.

The words mean nothing at this point as Jared is in shock. What follows is textbook rape victim, Jared is lost, unable to figure out his way and finally returns to the last safe place he knew: home.

Unfortunately, Henry calls Jared's parents impersonating a college administrator and outs him as gay which brings about another cataclysmic storm in his life. Not only has he been raped by a church predator, he now has essentially been labeled guilty of biblical sin which brought destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah and all cities in between.

This is where the film moves into the conversion therapy aspect of the film. It is a disarming, shocking and not uncommon attempt to drive the spirit of homosexuality out of the believer.

Boy Erased is a well done true story which handles what can cause lifelong estrangements in some families graciously, not without push-pull and deep arguments, but with authenticity in both situations as Nancy explains she loves God and she loves her son. Essentially God will have to understand and some day her husband will also.


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The cast delivers exceptional performances with obvious stand outs by Lucas Hedges, Flea who is extremely surprising as a Christian counselor and Britton Sear as Cameron, a boy humiliated by the Reverend in the program. It is difficult to shift through the performances as all involved bring exceptional performances.

It is a genuine, an unadulterated presentation of life inside religious circles with well-developed characters, from a screenplay by Joel Edgerton based on the memoir Boy Erased by Garrard Conley.

Boy Erased depicted the Pentecostal fundamentalist extremism that turns most away from Christianity well. The director was able to put the audience in this situation. The actors all presented aspects of Christianity from extremism to mainstream. It was extremely well done, well written and the cast presented the material remarkably well. 

Boy Erased opens November 2, 2018. See this film.

 

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