BOY ERASED, written and directed by Joel Edgerton, is a great movie as much as it is an important one. Tackling the issue of conversion therapy, the film brings a very disturbing subject matter to the forefront, publicizing a horrific experience that too many LGBTQ young people have faced in their lives. Across numerous communities, being gay is seen as a choice, an issue that must be kept private and “fixed” through therapy. Instead of embracing LGBTQ family members, parents and guardians make their children feel there is something wrong with who they are and who they love. BOY ERASED, which is sadly based off of a true story, addresses this issue head on.
Jared (Lucas Hedges) is a nineteen-year-old college student from a super religious background. His father (Russell Crowe) is a Baptist minister and owner of a successful car dealership, while his mother (Nicole Kidman) is a faithful wife and doting mother. When Jared comes out to his parents, they give him the ultimatum of undergoing conversion therapy to rid him of his “sinful ways”, or being kicked out of the family. At first, Jared is devoted to finding a cure, but as he meets other young people like him and the “reprogramming” progresses, it’s clear that something is very, very wrong. Jared cannot and will not change who he is, but will that come at the cost of his family?
Utilizing such incredible talent as Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Lucas Hedges, and Joel Edgerton himself, BOY ERASED shines a spotlight on the carnage conversion therapy creates not just in the victim’s psyche, but within each family dynamic. We are shown the damage permeating within families that are forcing young people to undergo traumatic “therapy.” The film first shows how close-knit the family is at the beginning (before Jared is outed), juxtaposed with how they are torn apart as the story unfolds. At first glance, the small-minded characters played by Kidman, Crowe, and Edgerton may appear pretty stereotypical. However, they inevitably become more multi-layered and are not solely the bad guys they were at first-glance. Kidman shines as the matriarch of the family. We see the pain in her character’s eyes and her hesitation to put the person she loves most in the world through so much pain. And as the story progresses, I found myself really rooting for her to come around and support her son. Although Crowe’s character exists on the other side of the coin and is hardly seen as a good guy, Edgerton still leaves the door open for him to be redeemed in the eyes of his son, wife, and the audience.
This film could easily step over the line into Lifetime movie sappiness territory, but Edgerton’s astute script and direction keeps it grounded in realism. By the end of BOY ERASED, we are left with an important message: you can’t pray the gay away and those that are pushing for conversion therapy need to have their own minds reprogrammed for acceptance and love. If I had it my way, this film would be shown in every high school, community center, and church across America to show young LGBTQ kids there is nothing wrong with them; there is EVERYTHING wrong with those that are pushing them to change who they are.
My Review: B+