Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased deals with the lived experience of homophobia much more explicitly than any other film I’ve ever seen on this subject, treating the layers of hypocrisy and passive-aggressive attitudes toward rape culture that are intimately folded up in “family values politics” with a visceral intensity that eschews cinematic style points for the sake of clarity.
As Edgerton said, this film isn’t intended to stand the test of time with audiences – it’s intended to change the audience, and make itself redundant in a world where conversion therapy is no longer a thing.
Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman deliver superb performances in supporting roles here, but this poem, based on the 32nd Psalm, is in the voice of Edgerton’s character, addressed as a sort of high-minded sales pitch of his services to Russell Crowe’s character, a conservative minister who has been advised by his colleagues in the cloth to subject his only son to conversion therapy, over his wife’s unspoken objections.
Embrace your son, be glad – his sin forgiven,
he is confessed and absolved of all offense.
Who among us has ever been so happy
as to stand before the Lord unspotted, clean
of conscience, and never halting in deceit?
When I withheld, my limbs sagged under the weight
of my unwieldy burdens – no help arrived
when fresh roars of anguish rent my throat all day.
For before I brought my case before the Lord
His hand lay heavy upon my shrinking skin.
My veins convulsed, my heart churned out salt and dust.
At last, I gave my sin a public hearing
and uncovered crimes that touched me to the soul.
I testified to how I had offended,
and God forgave the sin, making me whole.
This love I come to share with you sustains me.
In my daily work I shelter from relapse,
the means of my deliverance surround me.
Let me teach your son, for I have seen first-hand.
A child fights like a young horse, or like a mule,
relying on the harness and the curb, worn
to keep him from rushing after his parents.
Unceasing struggle dominates the wicked,
but he who trusts in God, gentle ease greets him.
Be glad of these trials – be proud as a father,
and hymn with the righteous, like all upright men!