After watching the trailer for Boy Erased in preparation for the screening, I knew it was going to provoke me. Based on the memoir by Garrad Conley of the same name, it’s a heart-wrenching and highly emotive story of a young man’s struggle with sexuality and the unethical and abominable practise of conversion therapy.
Directed by Aussie Joel Edgerton and with an outstanding cast including fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as the god-fearing Arkansas parents and rising star Lucas Hedges as Jared, the protagonist, the film goes back and forward through time as you piece together the chain of events that lead to Jared being shipped off to conversion therapy by his parents. It kept me engrossed from the get-go as Jared was led into the program, and you get a behind the scenes look at the horrid program. Seeing the ways in which the “patients” were treated, the language used to describe them, and the actions forced upon them was hard to watch. What made it worse was knowing it was true and that it still goes on in America today.
Coming out is hard enough without being ridiculed and essentially brainwashed into thinking that the way you feel isn’t normal. Hedges’ subtle, yet powerful performance illustrates the shame and inner turmoil experienced by Jared during his time in therapy and his frustrations as he begins to poke holes in the program and discover himself.
Kidman is outstanding as the mother conflicted between her loyalty to her husband and the love of her son. Crowe, as the minister father, is everything you’d expect from a man blinded by faith and causes for some confrontational scenes with his son.
I left the film with a lot of food for thought, and the empathetic way in which the film was made stirs up a lot of emotions. Sniffles were heard throughout the cinemas on more than one occasion (including coming from my seat), but sometimes it’s good to let it all out.