The word ‘gay’ is only mentioned twice in Boy Erased, the impressive second directorial effort from Australian actor Joel Edgerton. Victor Sykes (Edgerton in front of the camera) is the head therapist at a conversion therapy centre called Loving Action, which includes the ‘G’ of LGBT in a list of perverse behaviours that must be absolved. Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), is the Boy of the title, who is both fighting and attempting to rewrite his identity. It all begins when he is outed as gay to his father (Russell Crowe), a staunch Baptist pastor.
Gay conversion therapy isn’t alluded to as a hypothetical nightmare, but more a stone-cold bootcamp which abides by a clinical method to set its students straight. Edgerton’s affinity for gruelling violence is palpable, as the film slaps you until you’re red raw. Its disturbing impact lies in the brutality – physical and mental – that allows the film to exist as more than just an educational tearjerker about a cruel and archaic practice that still affects some 700,000 Americans today.
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