Boy Erased (2018) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Boy Erased ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The son of a Baptist preacher unwillingly participates in a church-supported gay conversion programme after being forcibly outed to his parents. Available to buy or rent on the most popular streaming platforms.

Having recently seen the splendid Brokeback Mountain play at the Soho Theatre I was inspired to revisit this film from 2018, for which Lucas Hedges was nominated for multiple awards that year (including a Golden Globe).

This is a well-intentioned, though rather conventional film, inspired by a true story of a boy, (Hedges) son of a small-town church pastor (Russell Crowe) who has been sent to a conversion therapy program to “cleanse him of his homosexuality”.

However absurd this story sounds, a chilling caption at the end of the film reminds us that 36 states in America still allow conversion therapy to be practiced on minors and to this day, more than 700,000 LGBTQ Americans have been “affected” by convention therapy.

Ironically this caption is probably the strongest moment in the film too.

It is impossible not to talk about this film without mentioning another work, from around the same time, called The Miseducation of Cameron Post (starring Cloe Grace Moretz, also available on Netflix) which is also based on another true story from 1993 about one of these exact same conversion centres.

A quick reminder that this is still a reality in today’s American society.

Whist Cameron Post decided to highlight the absurdity of these places by using comedy, Boy Erased chooses to play it absolutely straight (no pun intended) as a pure drama.

A potentially brave and decent choice, however by doing that the film fails to capture the subtlety and quiet discomfort that the other film had, lacking the edge of that film, but also failing to be as punchy as it wants to and often falling into clichés.

Having said that, there are still some powerful tender and emotional moments here and there and it is definitely a film which deserves to be seen and talked about.

Its true power lays in the acting by the always reliable Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.

But it is the splendid, subtle and multi-layered performance by Lucas Hedges, who was only 25 when he made this, that lifts the film and eventually made it work for me.

I have to confess, the scene at the end with Russell Crowe had me in absolute tears, so much so that I see no other way than giving this film a pass.

Boy Erased is available to buy or rent on the most popular streaming platforms.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.