Boy Erased is able to broach conversion therapy with such sincerity, emotional drama, and gripping performances from its cast.
The film starts as Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is sent for a 12-day assessment at Love in Action after a college counselor calls his parents. It’s not a choice he made in as much as his father, Baptist pastor Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe), did.
Russell Crowe is able to disappear into the role of the pastor to the point in which we don’t even recognize him. It is sad to see that Jared’s father still hasn’t come to terms by the end of the film. Yet this is the reality for many LGBTQ youth and adults. The level of a parent’s support of their child will totally vary but without the right support and environment, things can end up very badly.
While Marshall has one attitude, we see a completely opposite reaction for Nancy Eamons (Nicole Kidman). She lovers Jared and we see the hurt in her face as the film comes to a climax. She realizes then and there what her husband did was wrong in sending Jared to therapy. Nancy is the person who is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She sat in silence while Marshall sought counsel in two other pastors. Disagree as she may, it reached the point in which silence could no longer be an answer.
The main villain in the film so to speak is LIA head Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). He’s the one who runs a cult-like detention center. This is the easiest way of describing it. He’s the one who decides if those struggling will stay short-term or long-term. To see the abuse he puts people through is absolutely heartbreaking.
The film, based on Garrard Conley’s memoir, doesn’t hesitate to go lightly when it comes to conversion therapy. This is the second of two films this year to tackle the subject. The other one being the Sundance-premiering film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. There are similar instances for both leading subjects in that they come from an evangelical family. It’s because of that in which they get sent to conversion therapy to “cure” them. These facilities may claim to have a cure but only lead to more harm. The psychological effects are never-ending for the survivors. The methods they use are abusive and we see it depicted in the film. Oh, do we ever!
The flashbacks work in this film because they come at the right moment to drive points home. Other films have a tougher time in using this narrative device. It’s the right choice even if the narrative device makes other films harder to understand.
The film makes note following the epilogue that upon completion, 14 states have banned conversion therapy. There’s only 36 more states left to go to have such awful therapy banned from America. Take it from this transgender woman who repressed for years, the thoughts and feelings never go away. While I’ve never been subjected to conversion therapy, I’ve been subjected to those years of torment in thinking these feelings are wrong. That they aren’t normal. Because society, for what it’s worth says so.
While Boy Erased may be linked to Cameron Post, the films–while tonally different–only add to a larger conversation that requires discussion.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Joel Edgerton
CAST: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Cherry Jones, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, David Joseph Craig, Jesse LaTourette, Britton Sear, Théodore Pellerin, with Michael “Flea” Balzary and Russell Crowe