21 year-old Lucas Hedges, an Oscar Nominee already for the year before last’s “Manchester by the Sea” should really be nominated for Best Actor this year for his sympathetic, searing, unforgetable portrayal of the 18 year old Garrard Conley on whose life story and book this is based.
An Australian-American co-production, “Boy, Erased” is amazingly top heavy with Australian talent. Nicole Kidman is Mrs. Conley and Russell Crowe is the Baptist Minister dad. Neither want their son to turn out to be gay. In this day and age, it seems shocking for parents to feel that way, but this is all a true story. They send him to a sort prison/jail like half-way house to get “de-gayed” an appauling process that, of course, does not work.
Garrard has these feelings of attraction for men of his own sex. He is even raped one night In his college dorm. And so, OF COURSE, his worried, Baptist parents send him away to get conversion therapy as soon as they can. Another awesome Aussie, Joel Edgerton. wrote, directed, produced and stars in “Boy, Erased” as the villain, who runs this horrifying institution.
People have expressed astonishment to me over and over again that such places as depicted in this film actually exist. But THEY DO. It’s legal in over 33 States.
Edgeton’s direction is very spare and toned down, totally concentrating on the simplicity of the great performances his three great lead actors are giving him.
Nicole Kidman has never been better as is almost assured of getting an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the work of her career, she brings us inside the point of view of a concerned Southern preacher’s wife, who undergoes her own conversion arc when she realizes what torturous things are being done to her son. She could win her second Oscar here. She has the audience cheering at one point toward the end of the film. I never knew Nicole Kidman could be this good, but she IS. She’s now become an outspoken spokesperson for GLBTQ rights. Brava Nicole!
And of course, you just hate Russell Crowe’s bible-thumping Baptist preacher, but Crowe is such a great actor, he makes you understand, and yes, even care for his confused character, as he tries to make sense out of his young son’s gay choices.
It’s a difficult film to watch, but you have to. It’s a masterpiece, and SO important. Bringing these horrid practices to light. “Boy Erased” could change lives. It can save lives. You must see it.