Boy Erased Movie Review
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Releasing nationwide just days after an election that highlighted the division between blue and red states, BOY ERASED is an indie film that will surely stir up controversy in many states.
As the second gay conversion therapy film released in the last few months (the first being July’s well-reviewed The Miseducation of Cameron Post), the Joel Edgerton-directed Boy Erased tells the story of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), a teenage boy who enrolls at a gay conversion center in order to retain his relationship with and love of his preacher father (Russell Crowe) and stand-by-her-man mother (Nicole Kidman). Based on the life of Erased’s writer, Garrard Conley, the film addresses the battle between God and Sexuality while exposing the hidden truths of gay conversion therapy, a practice that the APA has called “nonsense and psychologically harmful”.
On the surface, Jared appears to be your typical kid: outgoing, smart, athletic, and good looking. Told through flashbacks, he’s on the high school basketball team, spends time at the lake with his friends, and enjoys playing video games. But while in high school, his failure to have an uplifting experience with his girlfriend gets him to realize that he is different than his other male friends.
Jared’s college days don’t get easier as he continues to try to understand his sexual desires. A close friendship with Henry (Joe Alwyn) results in a disturbing first sexual experience followed by a more cruel outing.
Much of the film takes place at Love in Action, a gay conversion center that attempts to “cure” children from being gay. Those who partake in the therapy are subject to their cell phones and writings being reviewed, bathroom breaks being supervised and told not to share what takes place in therapy with anyone, including their family. To watch teenagers beaten to remove the homosexuality that lives inside them and told that God will not love them because they’re gay is horrifying and hard to imagine taking place in 2018. Yet, as the post-credit scenes share, it continues to take place today with over 700,000 people having gone through conversion therapy.
Hedges powerful performance as a boy trying to understand who he is, who he’s attracted to, why he’s attracted to them, and how to resist his urges in order to keep peace with his parents is nearly on par with his Oscar supporting turn in Manchester by the Sea while Kidman gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a mother who battles being a dutiful wife and loving mother; the evolution of her character is captivating.
Boy Erased feels longer than it’s two-hour running time and, at times, may seem like a glorified after-school special, but with much of the movie pulled straight from Conley’s life, it also offers an uplifting coming-of-age story about acceptance.