Based on the memoir of Garrard Conley, Boy Erased tackles conversion therapy and what it inflicts upon its victims. It takes place in Arkansas, one of 36 states in America and one of many countries around the world where it is still practised today. As young Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), son to Baptist preacher Marshall (Russell Crowe) and devoted mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) matures into adulthood, he struggles with thoughts of men. To his parents, Jared seems happy with local girl Chloe (Madelyne Cline), a coupling that is expected to result in marriage.
When he goes to college, Jared is released from the suffocation of church sermons and high expectations. He comes close to acting on his desires with new friend, Henry, a character who will abuse Jared’s good nature. It brings horrifying ramifications and quite a terrifying scene of the film. Jared returns home traumatised but he can’t escape the connection with Henry, who has spread unconscionable rumour about Jared in an effort to keep him quiet about his own actions. The stories reach the ears of his parents, and Jared is backed into a corner to provide an explanation. Any way out, will lessen him in the eyes of his father. He’s forced into an admission, the consequence of which sees Jared arrive at The Source, a gay conversion therapy facility.
Here he and other impressionable young adults are locked away from outside distractions, where they will endure the physical and psychological brainwashing of biblical leader Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). With only the support of his fellow classmates, Jared grapples with making sense of his world and doing what is right by his family. After an agonising period, finally his mother comes to realise the full story. It will take some further years before his father acquiesces and reads his son’s writings about the period.
Boy Erased is a brave and heartbreaking journey, from the initial writing of Conley’s story to the film’s careful handling of a painful childhood. Edgerton proves himself as an accomplished writer director and a frightening presence as Sykes. Crowe and Kidman play well in the supporting roles. But this is Hedges’ film. He is exacting in this role; Jared’s pain and terror palpable.
Boy Erased releases nationally 8 November 2018.
About Boy Erased
Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Written by: Joel Edgerton (based on the book by Garrard Conley)
Stars: Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Madelyn Cline, Troye Sivan, Joe Alwyn, Theodore Pellerin