The son of a Baptist preacher is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents.
Based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, ‘Boy Erased’ is a drama about gay conversion therapy, as seen through the eyes of a teenager who goes through the process. It stars Lucas Hedges as Jared, a young man who lives with his parents in Arkansas, who is enrolled in the ‘Love in Action’ program after he reveals to his parents that he may be gay. The film moves between the present as Jared goes through the program and utilises flashbacks to tell the story of what led him to this point, and I thought the material was well handled by director Joel Edgerton, who also stars as Victor Sykes, the Chief Therapist at ‘Love in Action’.
If you’re a regular follower of my reviews you may think this premise sounds awfully similar to a film from last year called ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’, which was one of my favourite films of last year. That film also tackled the topic of gay conversion therapy and it is a better film than ‘Boy Erased’, largely because it felt more lived in and the characters were better realised, and it’s hard not to draw comparisons between the two films given the close proximity of their releases. That being said, I liked that ‘Boy Erased’ spent time trying to understand the point of view of Jared’s parents, played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. It doesn’t make them out to be monsters and it’s clear they both want what’s best for Jared, even as their approach is flawed and clouded by their religious beliefs (Marshall, Jared’s dad, is a Baptist preacher). I felt this aspect of the material was handled with nuanced writing and the performance from Kidman in particular was especially moving.
The psychological trauma caused by conversion therapy is exposed throughout ‘Boy Erased’, whether it be subtle manipulation to drive a wedge between the individuals and their families, or more overt, physical violence and it’s often hard to watch, but ‘Boy Erased’ has a powerful point to make underneath the harrowing events portrayed on screen. If you’ve only got time to watch one conversion therapy drama, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is the better film, but take nothing away from ‘Boy Erased’ which is a good film in its own right.
Directed By: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Joel Edgerton, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Britton Sear, Theodore Pellerin, Cherry Jones and Flea