In the drama based on true events THE LOST SON A gay boy has to undergo reparative therapy to get rid of his tendencies. Director Joel Edgerton stages this with a lot of feeling for nuances. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
Nineteen-year-old Jared (Lucas Hedges) grows up in a Baptist preacher household in the American South. When his strict religious father (Russell Crowe) finds out about his son’s homosexuality because Jared is unintentionally outed, he urges him to take part in questionable reparative therapy to combat his homosexuality. Given the choice of risking either his identity or his family and his faith, he inevitably accepts the absurd treatment. His mother (Nicole Kidman) accompanies Jared to the isolated facility, where self-appointed therapist Viktor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) runs a degrading and inhumane re-education program.
Movie explanation of the ending
Even when films are based on true events, one is actually used to the makers resorting to fiction for a little more drama here and there. After all, real life rarely sticks to dramaturgies and narrative motifs that can be filmed one-to-one. That’s okay, as long as it doesn’t distort the message of the original material. We only remember the recently very heated debate about “Bohemian Rhapsody” where chronological sequences were not necessarily adhered to. But whether Freddy Mercury wore a mustache during the performance of “We Will Rock You” or not ultimately changes little about his life and the career of the band Queen. Director Joel Edgerton already exercised restraint during his debut “The Gift”; And the psychological thriller about a mentally ill stalker didn’t even belong in the “Based on True Events” category. Nevertheless, the Australian gave a foretaste of the fact that a very crucial principle seems to be particularly important to him in his work: Less is more! It also fits that for his second directorial work “The Prodigal Son” he has now ventured into the fate of a real person. And this is where overdramatization comes into play: Edgerton doesn’t rely on this for his film. Until the end, the filmmaker routinely sticks to what Garrard Conley, who was eighteen at the time, actually experienced, even if that means that as a viewer you may not necessarily see what you would expect given the premise of a radical religious re-education camp gay teenagers might expect.
Nancy (Nicole Kidman) and Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe) decide to place their son in the care of a therapy center.
You have to imagine this: In so-called reparative therapies, self-proclaimed healers are supposed to “help” young homosexual people to get their tendencies, which supposedly arose from sin, under control, in order to then leave them as “healed” (i.e. heterosexual). This is not a crude book or film idea, but happens every day in the USA, where, under the guise of religion, countless of these therapy centers spread their obscure theories and are regularly visited by worried parents. Parents like Nancy and Marshall, who once decided to give their son Garrard there. He then spent several days in the facility before he was able to leave thanks to his mother, who had been critical from the start. And because, unlike the majority of patients, it couldn’t be broken. He first wrote an article for the New York Times about his time there and later the book “Boy Erased,” in which he describes exactly those few days of his stay and what they did to him. This is a secret as to why Joel Edgerton’s film “The Prodigal Son” seems so oppressively real: its production stays very close to the originals. And in this case that means that he only concentrates on exactly those few days that the teenager named Jared in the film was there. Joel Edgerton cannot depict all the atrocities that sometimes take place in such a therapy center, simply because Jared did not experience them all.
So at first you get the impression that everything shown here isn’t as bad as expected. But this impression is deceptive and only develops its full shocking effect when it is exposed as a fallacy. Joel Edgerton consciously avoids extremes, but from Jared’s perspective you always see the particularly radical manifestations of the fanatic ideology. For example, when one of his fellow inmates has to attend his own funeral for therapy purposes, you feel all the more helpless along with Jared, who is actually so clear-thinking but condemned to keep quiet. Jared repeatedly questions the methods, expresses criticism of the therapies to his parents and even finds his mother’s open ear. Others are not so lucky and undergo a very slow brainwashing process without them even knowing. The true brutality of the film lies in seeing how these methods work on the one hand, how homosexuals find their tendencies increasingly repulsive, while Jared, who was originally chosen as a victim, can simply watch the whole thing in disbelief.
Joel Edgerton as Victor Sykes tries to provide therapy for the young people.
It still becomes really explicit on the screen. When Jared is brutally raped in the first half of the film – the impetus for his later equally violent outing – it really takes a toll. It’s the only moment where Joel Edgerton works with any degree of drasticity; as if he wanted to shake things up, at a moment in which there is still nothing to shake up. The scene almost seems a little out of place in this otherwise restrained film, which never relies on exaggeration. In “The Prodigal Son,” not even the on-site supervisors, including Joel Edgerton as director Victor Sykes, seem like typical villains. The concern they present is serious (at least from their perspective), which makes them even more dangerous for their young protégés. Their charisma resembles that of cult leaders; You can immediately see why so many Americans fall for their methods year after year. This makes “The Prodigal Son” seem almost documentary, which is underlined by the extremely authentic performances of all the actors. At the center is Lucas Hedges (“Ben is Back”) with once again an outstandingly self-sacrificing acting performance as a young person desperately begging to be heard, who, even as a victim of circumstances, never struggles with himself or his attitude. Russell Crowe (“The Nice Guys”) and Nicole Kidman (“Aquaman”) On the other hand, they know excellently how to correlate their love for one another with their love for their son and religion in equal parts. The fight for recognition between them is at least as exciting as Jared’s fight for his freedom.
Conclusion: In his second work, “The Prodigal Son,” Joel Edgerton also demonstrates his knack for telling about interpersonal dramas in a stylish and without showmanship, which unfold all the more emotionality and power precisely because of their understated staging.
“The Prodigal Son” can be seen in USA cinemas from February 21st.