Joel Edgerton’s career as a filmmaker looks like rocketing in light of the critical acclaim for Boy Erased after its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival followed by a special presentation screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Reviewers heaped praise on Edgerton’s second turn at directing following The Gift and the performances of Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Troye Sivan and Edgerton.
Edgerton wrote the screenplay based on the Garrard Conley memoir. Crowe and Kidman play a devout Baptist couple in Arkansas whose faith is challenged when they discover their son Jared (Manchester by the Sea’s Hedges) may be gay.
Jared himself doesn’t know but after a horrific encounter with a college crush his father sends him to a conversion camp run by a self-anointed therapist (Edgerton) and a group of men who claim they have “overcome” their homosexuality through sheer willpower.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber opined: “Edgerton’s career as a filmmaker rises to a whole new level with this sophomore effort. Boy Erased aims to influence the debate on gay conversion therapy that is still unresolved in many parts of the country, but it deserves praise not as a polemic but as a richly humanistic, emotionally searing drama that sticks in the memory.“
Variety’s Peter Debruge declared Edgerton shows an admirable sense of restraint, even when hitting all the usual beats, Crowe and Kidman have seldom been better in their supporting roles and the film’s greatest value will be to parents, particularly those with LGBT children.
The Wrap’s Sasha Stone said: “Edgerton is an actor’s director, and thus no one in this film is given short shrift. Each has plenty of room to work out what’s happening in their own trajectories. While his last film, The Gift, was promising, for some it didn’t quite hold together. Boy Erased is an accomplished film that avoids showy flourishes and instead focuses intently on character and story.
“This is a film that should be seen on high school campuses across America. (Good luck with that.) But thanks to new distribution options, even in towns that refuse to play Boy Erased, kids who need to see it most will find it easy to access.”
Produced by Edgerton’s Blue-Tongue Films, Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Perfect World Pictures’ Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, it is classified as an Australian production and is eligible for the AACTA Awards.
Funded by Universal’s Focus Features, the drama will be released in Australia on November 8.