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« Chris Gives Thanks!!| Main| Watch at Home: Crazy Rich Asians,We the Animals,and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs »
Wednesday
Nov 21 2018

Soundtracking: "Boy Erased"

byChris Feil

Troye Sivan is one of those musical acts that makes me realize that I am suddenly,and without warning,very old.Forgive me if in recent years I've found myself incapable of distinguishing him between the Shawn Mendes and Charlie Puth hodgepodge of pop baritenor twinkery.But after this year,I can at least recall Sivan as the one who sings about his bootyhole and provides some understated grace to the emotional landscape of the so-soBoy Erased.

And Sivan's musical stylings might also be making Oscar feel aged by adjacency,should he be nominated this year for his collaboration with Jónsi,Boy Erased's original song "Revelation".He'd be one of the category's youngest nominees,and also join (certain nominee) Lady Gaga in the tradition of songwriter's starring in their song's film.Streisand,Parton,Björk,Blige - Sivan?

The song represents several invocations as it emerges throughout the film.It affects the film most directly when it's needle-dropped into a formative romantic encounter between Lucas Hedges' Jared and an art student.It's a chaste moment,one that stands starkly in the shadow of both Jared's spirit-breaking religious guilt and the sexual shame and trauma of being raped by another boy at college.The two share some pointed religious discussion,as college boys often do,and then lay next to one another without acting on their shared intimacy,as college boys scarcely do.When this boy plays this song,it feels like a gift,a declaration that Jared is seen before he can properly see himself.

In the song's romantic psuedo-religiosity,there is a directly drawn link between Jared's natural urges,his Christian convictions,and a stifled need to be released from his suffering.It is both a hymn and not,perhaps givingBoy Eraseda balance between religious affirmation and gay self-actualization that the film mostly tiptoes around.The "revelation"of the title might seem at first overly obvious,but then it reflects the tidal force of what Jared experiences,a before and after,a reckoning.It at least embraces affirmative religion in a way that director Joel Edgerton feels largely terrified.The song's frankness (and even its earnestness) is much needed.

Like the film,the song hesitates with building into big emotions.But here that limited catharsis feels appropriately tuned,better reflecting the unpacking still left to be done between Jared,his lingering traumas,and his family and their beliefs.Its muted emotional arc feels like a proper ellipsis to Jared's just-beginning journey,one that is just starting to dabble in self-expression,and with a conflicted foot still in his religious foundation.If anything,"Revelation"successfully does much of the narrative heavy lifting where the film is less assured.

When the song closes the film,its original presentation of respecting the tension in the room provides a grace that carries to Jared's next steps of love and forgiveness for his parents.Here the themes and the character arc can be tied into one musical summation,at least a tidy,lovely note to end on.From Sivan and Jónsi,it's the film at its most emotionally intelligent.

All Soundtracking installments can be foundhere!

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Reader Comments (6)

This song is integral to the film's cumulative emotional power.I hope it's nominated.

November 21,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

After seeing the movie,I wish I could agree.The movie left me flat...

November 21,2018 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

Beautiful beautiful song!!!

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February 28,2019 | Unregistered CommenterAddu

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