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Boy Erased (2018)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/29/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/29/2019
In the past, we’ve discussed how biopics can be educational. Obviously, they can provide a detailed look at a specific person and their life. But, they can also teach us something about the world, as these movies can deliver an inside look at a new culture, place, or school of thought. Gay-conversion camps sometimes make the news and they are something which most people have heard of, but beyond the immense controversy that the mere mention of this kind of thing can create, do we really know very much about them? Boy Erased peels back the curtain to show how these practices can impact a person and their family.
Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) seems like the typical all-American boy. He played basketball in high school, dated a cheerleader, and is loved by his parents, Marshall (Russell Crowe), a minister, and Nancy (Nicole Kidman), a homemaker. Following an incident at college, Jared is forced to tell his parents that he’s gay. To put it mildly, they don’t handle it well, and before long, Nancy is taking Jared to a program called Love in Action, which is overseen by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). The goal of Love in Action is to help young adults see the wicked ways of their homosexual thoughts and get back on the right path. As Jared participates in the groups and activities, he only further questions why he is there and who he is supposed to be to his parents.
First of all, let me say that I would have thought that a program like Love in Action would have been a residential facility, where the participants live there, as opposed to a day program where they leave at 5pm.
Secondly, Boy Erased may be one of the most oddly objective movies ever made. I would assume that even those who know very little about gay-conversion therapy would go into the movie with some sort of pre-conceived opinion. But, Writer/Director Joel Edgerton has decided to simply portray the events at Love in Action in a very matter of fact way. This allows the viewer to project their own feelings onto the movie. If you find the notion of this kind of treatment ridiculous, then you will see what happens to Jared as abusive and wrong. On the other hand, if you believe that gay-conversion therapy could actually work, then the methods of Love in Action will come across as completely justified. Similarly, rarely does the film venture into the character’s minds to get a sense of what they are thinking and feeling, at least not in the first two acts.
One could admire Edgerton for taking this approach to what can be considered to be a very controversial topic. However, it also robs the movie of nearly all emotion. Knowing that Boy Erased is based on a true story, I had expected it to be a fiery indictment of the ignorance of gay-conversion, so the film’s even-keeled approach was very shocking. But, it also makes for a movie that feels incredibly hollow. Save for one outburst by Jared, for the bulk of the film, we get no feelings whatsoever. It’s not until the finale that any emotion arrives on-screen. And while this moment, combined with the photos of the real-life Garrard Conley (I don’t know why they changed the names), offer an ending that will touch most viewers, the previous 105 minutes give the impression of something made by a robot.
Perhaps Boy Erased was designed to be screened for focus groups who could give their opinions about what they get from the film. Otherwise, what we get is a movie which a very touchy subject and provides an incredibly centrist view. Other movies have presented gay-conversion camps in a more comedic fashion, so it’s good to have a film which offers a sober, realistic view of what occurs in these programs. Would Boy Erased been better had it picked a side? The answer must be yes. Be it pro or con, if the film had approached the subject matter with an agenda, the results would have been much more provocative. It could be said that this plays like a documentary, but even documentaries which attempt to be completely objective has some sort of bias. Boy Erased allows the viewer to form their own opinions, as it seems that the movie can’t find one of its own.
Boy Erased never explains the minister/car dealer relationship on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright, although Edgerton has avoided using any noticeably bright colors here. The level of detail is good and depth works well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a drama, we don’t get a lot of dynamic effects here, but the track still delivers. During the group settings, we get some surround and stereo effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen. A street scene with Jared also provides nice movement of the audio from front to back.
The Boy Erased Blu-ray Disc contains just a few extra features. We begin with twenty-three DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 33 minutes. Most of these moments are quite brief and there aren’t any new subplots introduced here, but we do see some new characters from Jared’s life before the camp. “Jared Revealed” (3 minutes) focuses on Lucas Hedges’ turn in the lead role and includes comments from the real Garrard Conley. “Becoming the Eamons” (6 minutes) looks at Crowe and Kidman’s roles, but neither actor appears here. “Man Consumed: Joel Edgerton” (5 minutes) profiles the actor/director and allows us to see him working on the set.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long