Our guest writer/correspondence John H Foote writes from TIFF18, about Boy Erased, written and directed by Joel Edgerton.
“Let’s God the gay our him” is the war cry of many a church in the Southern United States when it is suspected one of their flock might be, gasp, a homosexual!
Ignorance breeds fear.
When their son is accused of homosexual acts he did not commit (willingly) at his college, the Dean calls his parents and he is sent to be evaluated by a religious organization who pride (wrong word, sorry!) themselves on bashing the gay out of the young people who are brought to them. Everything from reading the Bible, attacking homosexuality as an abomination, to bringing in a tough ex-con to talk about how to carry themselves as men are just some of the shocking treatments used on these kids. Some of them are so obviously homosexuals and are going to continue to be that the treatment feels like some terrible torture, which I suspect it would be to anyone.
The excellent Lucas Hedges, so good in ‘Manchester By the Sea’ (2016) is the young man accused of the acts after he himself is raped by his best friend, no doubt the informant. But he goes to satisfy his father, a minister portrayed with haughty superiority by Russell Crowe. In an exceptional display of range, after ‘Destroyer’, Nicole Kidman is the uptight mother who loves her son and will see this through with him no matter how it turns out.
It leads to some tough questions.
Why does the church think they have the right to dictate who any of us? Why do they think they possess the right to shame young people from being themselves? I believe we are born who we are, and we love who we choose. If a man and woman can have a good life together, go for it, but if two men or two women can have the same, why should they not be allowed to have that?? Who is anyone to determine who loves who?
Russel Crowe is a commanding force as the father, stunned by the allegations of what his son might be, though when he looks at him he sees only a boy he loves. Crowe has lost none of his power as an actor, and it was good to see him back in something worthy. Lucas Hedges is the real deal, a sensitive actor who reminds me of a young Montgomery Clift, not in looks, but in what he brings to each role. One of the most powerful moments he has in the film is a moment where he sobs alone in the bathroom after the rape, filled with shame. The shame that is happened, and perhaps the shame he did not do more to stop it. You can see the conflict building in him, it is a lovely performance.
Where the film fails for me, is the near-immediate decision to send him to this conversion camp, filled with other kids who suspect or know they are gay. Do his parents not trust his entirely? Are they so blinded by their religion and belief in God that they cannot see their son is in pain? He was assaulted??
Lots of questions asked, few answered.
The Cinemawala Rating: 2.5/5