While “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” this year’s other gay conversion camp movie, took a comedic approach, “Boy Erased” is given the kind of serious dramatic approach the subject matter deserves.
For many, especially at a time when the words “sincerely held religious beliefs” are widely seen as code for bigotry, it’s a bit of a hard sell to see parents who ship their kids off to such places as blameless; but it helps that in ‘Boy,” they’re played by two of the finest screen actors of their generation. Russell Crowe, who submerges himself completely in his role, exudes a quiet strength clearly founded on sincerity, however misguided the principles behind it may be; and Nicole Kidman, superb as always, radiates innate kindness.
As for Lucas Hedges in the title role, he continues a run of performances that is fast making him one of the standout young actors in Hollywood. This is his largest role to date, placing the burden of the film essentially on his shoulders, and he proves himself more than capable of carrying it.
In supporting roles, director Joel Edgerton himself plays the program’s “ex-gay” director, in a solid and surprisingly likable performance; Flea (bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) is a strong standout as a menacing staffer who puts a face on the ugly homophobia which underlies the entire concept of conversion therapy; and out pop star Troye Sivan has a memorable scene as a program participant who shares his savvy and surprising truth in a private moment with Hedges.