Boy Erased directed by Joel Edgerton [9/10]

What an unanticipated gem! Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir, Boy Erased, has been brought to the screen with consummate artistry and intelligence by Joel Edgerton, fresh from his triumph with a very different film, Loving. I approached “Boy Erased” with trepidation, not wanting to witness close up the moral perfidy of conversion therapy. I thought I knew all about conversion therapy: using tactics akin to military psychological torture, with physical violence often thrown in, religious zealots set out to “convert” LGBT Christians into “normality,” a process intrinsically doomed to fail. In Boy Erased, Jared, a sweet, earnest, gay eighteen-year-old agrees with his minister father and his mother to be sent to a short day-stay conversion camp. Lucas Hedges is unbelievably powerful in his portrayal of Jared, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman don’t miss as beat as dad and mum, and Edgerton himself makes the flesh cringe as the camp’s overpowering, sociopathic head. As we witness with unfurling horror the diabolical process used to break down the camp’s young men and women, and as we see Jared struggling mightily to reconcile what he is seeing and experiencing, with his love for his parents,and his faith, the tension cooks and cooks. The climax is thrilling and then an extended aftermath rounds out the story with style. Eduard Grau’s cinematography, centered around close-ups of Jarrod’s questing face, is artful, and for once in a movie of this type, the discreet soundtrack blends perfectly. Stunning, not a moment awry.

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