The homosexual son of a Baptist preacher is forced to participate in conversion therapy program in Boy Erased. Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is the teenage son of Baptist preacher Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe) and his wife Nancy (Nicole Kidman). After Jared is unwittingly outed as homosexual to his parents, he is sent by a father is gay conversion program run by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). However, it isn’t long until Jared realizes that this program does more harm than good.
Boy Erased is the second directorial effort from actor Joel Edgerton, following 2015’s The Gift, and is based on the 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley. The story is told out of chronological order, beginning with Jared Eamons arriving at conversion therapy, with the film utilizing flashbacks to fill in the story of how he got there. It is not long until Jared realizes that this so-called therapy is incredibly harmful for the participants, as they are forced to endure abuse and blame for the way they are.
Boy Erased is a story that is probably more powerful in today’s political climate than it was when Garrard Conley’s memoir was first released in 2016. Jared Eamons is outed to his parents in the worst fashion possible, as Jared is the victim of sexual assault in college and the perpetrator ends up revealing Jared’s homosexuality to his parents. As such, not only is Jared being punished for his sexuality, but it can also be said that he is the subject of victim blaming, especially from his father, who immediately jumps straight to the question “Are you a homosexual?”
While not a condemnation of religion per se, Boy Erased does show the worst aspect of fundamentalist Christians, who are almost literally treating homosexuality as a demon to be exorcised. Probably one of the most disturbing scenes in the film involves a mock funeral for one of the people in the program, who ends up being beaten by his own family members.
On the acting front, Boy Erased is very much a showcase for Lucas Hedges, who has been a major rising star over the last number of years. Nicole Kidman also shines as Jared’s mother, who is willing to support him no matter what. Then there is the supporting performance by Joel Edgerton, who gives off the right amount of passive aggressive sliminess as Victor Sykes.
With homophobia still being a major issue in the United States, Boy Erased is a very important film that shows just what can happen if these feelings of hate are left unchecked.