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film review

(l-r.) Lucas Hedges stars as Jared and Russel Crowe and Nicole Kidman as Jared's parents, Marshall and Nancy in Joel Edgerton's BOY ERASED, a Focus Features release. Credit: Focus FeaturesFocus Features

  • Boy Erased
  • Written and directed by Joel Edgerton
  • Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe
  • Classification 14A; 114 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Tackling the topic of “conversion therapy” – in which queer youth are essentially shipped off to re-education camps in order to “pray the gay away” – is a complicated proposition for a filmmaker. It would be so easy to simply slip into a spiral of (legitimately) righteous anger at the abhorrent practice, which might deliver on-screen fire and fury, but little in the way of nuance or dramatic tension. Fortunately, writer-director Joel Edgerton leaps over this hurdle with Boy Erased, an intimate and deliberately quiet tale that infuriates, but never overwhelms. Based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of growing up as the gay son of a middle-America Baptist pastor, Boy Erased resonates exactly because it treats everyone as a human being, complex and impossible to reduce to caricatures or binaries. Edgerton, who also plays the tightly wound head of the conversion-therapy organization here, wrings devastating performances from his cast, including actor-of-the-moment Lucas Hedges as Garrard, and Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as his parents, who view homosexuality as something to be feared, if not eradicated outright. Garrard’s personal journey may resolve itself a bit too neatly, but sometimes that’s just how life works – if you’re lucky. Stick around for the end credits for one good laugh, and then a flood of tears.

Boy Erased opens Nov. 9 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.