As a film critic, you sit through lots of stories and plots on repeat. It’s always some hero saving the day or a traditional romance flick, you rarely see new topics or conversations that haven’t been explored on screen. “Boy Erased” takes the viewer to new places within the family dynamics and pushes audiences to explore and understand concepts they have never considered.

Australian actor Joel Edgerton, who you’ll recognize from movies like Red Sparrow earlier this year or as Ramses in Exodus: Gods and Kings, made his directorial debut with thriller The Gift a couple of years ago. Edgerton returns behind the camera for something completely different in “Boy Erased.” It’s been unfairly labeled the “gay conversion therapy film,” which it is, but Edgerton playing off Garrard Conley’s book delivers much more than that. Not only is Edgerton from down-under, but cast fellow Aussie actors Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe (actually from New Zealand but lives in Australia) and musical artist Troye Sivan, making his big film debut.

The reviews are high, the first trailer made people sob, but “Boy Erased” is a film about hope, and that’s the message the cast and crew want audiences to take away. Kidman who has appeared at some of the films premieres and festival inclusions says it was important for her to do this film and lend her voice. In fact, Kidman and Crowe’s association with the movie has raised it’s profile immensely, both will be up for award consideration for their supporting roles as the parents in the film.

It’s main star, the boy in question, is played by Lucas Hedges. Only 21-years-old, already an Oscar nominee for Manchester By the Sea and starring in not one, but three films this year including “Boy Erased.”

2018 “It” Boy: Lucas Hedges

The son of writer and filmmaker Peter Hedges, Lucas seems to lean into roles that on the surface appear traditional, yet transform into very complex human beings. He will do it again under his father’s script, and direction in Ben is Back later this year. Hint: it’s another powerful performance from Lucas who hold his own next to Julia Roberts.

Hedges own sexuality has been the topic of conversation during the press tour. That’s not a big surprise considering the character he played in Lady Bird last year, now the second time the young actor has played a teenager struggling with sexuality. Hedges told Vulture Magazine earlier this year, “I’m not totally straight, but also not gay and not necessarily bisexual.”

He is one of a few upcoming Hollywood actors who are blurring the lines on masculinity and male sexuality. Hedges seems to have found a platform portraying Edgerton’s character adapted from Conley’s book and real-life experience. “It’s exciting that I have the opportunity, through this film, to speak more truthfully about my own sexuality and to not be ashamed of it,” Hedges told The Hollywood Reporter.

Who is this movie for?

“Boy Erased” is equal parts heartbreaking, inspiring and brave. Edgerton, who is a straight male, said he felt compelled to make this film but that is was important to him to have as many LGBT people involved on screen and behind the camera. Connely, who chose not to write the screenplay to his book, has been equally involved with promoting the film alongside his mother, Martha.

The film might work best for parents, especially those in need of seeing what this on-screen family endures, especially the mistakes. “Shame on you and shame on me,” Kidman’s character says at one point in the film. “A mother knows when something isn’t right.” The latest “Boy Erased” trailer ends with a shocking statistic, 77,000 people are still being held in conversion therapy across America. Likely a shocking statistic to most before the light this film is shining.

While the selling component might be the conversion therapy, “Boy Erased” examines the difficulty of teenagers torn between sexual identity, family, personality and religion. Jared Eamons who is based off a real person, is a cinematic composite of so many others put unwillingly into similar situations.

It will hopefully also bring up the topics that are more easily discussed after watching something like this together. The confrontations between Hedges character and Russell Crowe really elevate the film to best film of the year status, but more importantly are an open invitation for discussion. If superhero movies can inspire young kids to be brave then hopefully a movie like this can inspire adults to be more compassionate.

“Boy Erased” reaches high, and the importance of the material taxes Edgerton’s skills as a director. Thanks to the dedicated and heartfelt performances, combined with the significance of the subject matter, “Boy Erased” is one of the must-see films of 2018.

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