4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018; R for sexual content including an assault, some profanity and brief drug use; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Becoming the Eamons”
AUSTRALIAN actor/writer/director Joel Edgerton performed all three jobs admirably with “Boy Erased,” an adaptation of a 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley. In the film version, Conley becomes Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), son of Marshall, a Baptist preacher (a very overweight Russell Crowe) and his devout, big-haired, glittery wife Nancy (Nicole Kidman).
The setting is a small Arkansas town, and Jared is doing his best to fit into the macho stereotype expected of him by his family, his peers, and his church. He plays sports and has a pretty cheerleader girlfriend, but he’s clearly not into any of it. When he gets to college, a seeming romance between Jared and a handsome dorm-mate named Henry (Joe Alwyn), ends with Jared being raped.
Back home during a break, Henry calls Nancy and tells her that her son is gay, which forces Jared to confirm the fact. Marshall swiftly announces that Jared will not be able to live under his roof unless he wants to change, which leads to the young man being taken to an intensive conversion therapy program. The leader of this program is Victor Sykes (Edgerton), whose confrontational style and military bearing is riddled with religious dogma. An especially creepy ex-con conversion counselor is played by the abundantly tattooed Flea (yes, Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) who, at one point, terrorizes Jared in a restroom.
All performances are excellent, with Hedges’ especially powerful. Also impressive are the flawless American accents by Edgerton, Crowe, and Kidman. The film’s conclusion may seem a bit pat, but knowing it faithfully follows Conley’s memoir makes for an extremely satisfying experience, as well as delivering an important message about the dangers of any type of sexual orientation conversion therapy.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment decided to only release the 4K Ultra HD version via streaming sites, which wasn’t offered as a reviewing option. The Blu-ray still looks great (1.85:1 aspect ratio) with fine clarity throughout. Contrast in interior and exterior scenes, colors and skin tones are well-balanced. The DTS-HD audio track is also very good, with dialogue always intelligible and the musical score a worthy counterpoint to the drama.
Includes a large number of deleted and extended scenes, as well as three brief featurettes – “Becoming the Eamons,” “Jared Revealed” and “Man Consumed: Joel Edgerton.”
In “Becoming the Eamons,” Edgerton says he had been “fascinated by the family dynamic in the story” and how the parents truly thought they were helping their son. Conley praises Crowe’s performance saying, “Russell acts exactly like my father – every tic, every linguistic detail is there.” Conley adds that preachers are like movie stars in a small town.
Edgerton notes that he didn’t want to paint Jared’s parents as bad people, and praises the “beautiful, simple maternal love” Nancy has for her son. Conley’s family, notes Edgerton, “underwent a great amount of evolution” as time went on. One of the producers concludes that the filmmakers “wanted to inspire conversations of love and acceptance” in its viewing audience.
— Peggy Earle