FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2018 -- There have been a few recent films depicting the struggles of LGBT and alternative lifestyle individuals. "Blue is the Warmest Color", "Moonlight," "Carol," and "Call Me By Your Name" to name a few. All of the film pretty much focused on the gay relationships. You could throw "Enigma Machine" in there save for the fact it was about decoding the German war machine by a guy who just happened to be the wrong time.


Joel Edgerton's second directorial effort isn't really about gay relationships.'s not. It's about something that will probably annoy the Christian right. In fact, it'll probably rub any conservative religious right the wrong way. Hie film has more to do with the last half hour of "Enigma Machine" than with "Brokeback Mountain". It's not about coming out as gay; it's about those who figure they can "fix" homosexuality.


It's actually an old concept that's been discussed in several formats, including comedy. Seinfeld's "The Beard" had Elaine Benes try to convert a gay man over to the hetero team...with no success.

Lucas Hedges plays Jared a young college guy who is fairly athletic, fairly bright and ambitious and a closet gay. He knows that he is attracted to men and not women, even though he has a girlfriend (Madelyn Cline). His sexuality is exacerbated by the fact that his dad Marshall (Russell Crowe) is a Southern Baptist minister. Marshall isn't quite fire and brimstone, but very, very set by what is right and wrong.


When Jared's sexuality is forced into the open by an abusive former college friend who raped him, Marshall's reaction is to call upon fellow Southern Baptist elders and send Jared to a Get God In You Christian facility that has promised to get the demon gay seed out. The facility is lead by Victor Sykes (Edgerton) who is turning a fairly hefty profit by assessing homosexuals and arranging their encampment in his facility for as long as it takes to fix them. His methods are kept secret and so certain is he of his brainwashing methods, he allows the patients to go home at night...unless they are staying there round the clock.


Hesitantly on Jared's side is his mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) who lowers her head and sits back while Marshall arranges for the boy's conversion back to godliness and straightness. Most of Sykes tactics include ridicule and shaming the patients - male or female - into blaming their genetics for the homosexuality.


Hedges and Edgerton give powerful performances as they have their battle of wits. Britton Sear delivers a stirring support performance as Cameron, a patient who is more emotionally fragile than his huge frame indicates. There is a moment of Napoleonic bullying between Sykes and Cameron which will remind you of Bob Steele and Lon Chanel's confrontations in "Of Mice and Men" (1939). Nicole gives a suitable performance as a southern belle, just not quite a moving as Sandra Bullock's in "The Blind Side".


For Hedges, this is a continuation of a solid body of work that includes "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", "Manchester by the Sea," and "Lady Bird". He will be carrying a gold statuette eventually.


"Boy Erased" is a moving, well-acted, well-directed look at human sexuality and the religious right. It seeks a middle ground only after taking individuals through hell first.   -- GRADE B+ --   GEOFF BURTON