Dan's Review: "Boy Erased" a tale of love, rescue
Nov 16, 2018 10:01AM
● By Dan Metcalf
Lucas Hedges, Troye Sivan, and Devin Michael in Boy Erased - © 2018 Focus Features.
Boy Erased (Focus Features)
Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language, and brief drug use.
Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones, Flea, Britton Sear, Madelyn Cline, Emily Hinkler, Jesse LaTourette, David Joseph Craig, Théodore Pellerin, Matt Burke, David Ditmore.
Written by Joel Edgerton, based on "Boy Erased" by Garrard Conley.
Directed by Joel Edgerton.
There has always been a tense relationship between religion and sexuality. Over the years, I have struggled with my own religion’s views on the subject, especially as it relates to homosexuality. It’s a problem for many Christians, as biblical references specifically mention same-sex attraction as a perversion above and something beyond the sin of adultery. At odds with this view are the teachings of Jesus Christ, who taught kindness and love toward all (“thy neighbor”) without qualification. Such tribulation has led to some religious efforts to “remove” homosexuality away from members of their own faith through varying processes of “conversion therapy.” This practice is the basis of Boy Erased, a new film based on the real-life experiences of Garrard Conley.
Lucas Hedges stars as Jared, a teenage boy finishing high school and entering college. His parents are the Reverend Marshall Eamons and Nancy Eamons (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman). At college, Jared is raped by a male roommate and returns home in shame. When his parents ask whether or not he’s gay, Jared admits he has thoughts about men but had never acted on such urges. His parents summon local church leaders, who recommend that Jared enter a conversion therapy program, run by Victor Sykes. Jared participates in the program, which includes training on masculinity, hereditary studies, one-on-one role-playing, and in some cases, physical abuse. Sykes’ right-hand man is Brandon (Flea), an ex-convict and brutal man who enforces strict rules of the program. Jared makes friends with some of the other men and a few women in the program but does not respond well to Sykes’ methods. Nancy begins to notice the negative effects the program is having on Jared and eventually begins to question whether Sykes is qualified to administer it. When she finally sees the truth behind Sykes, she takes action and removes Jared during a tense confrontation. The bigger problem for Jared is how to face his father, who continues to struggle with the reality of his son’s homosexuality.
Boy Erased is a disturbing, yet honest look at the unethical practice of conversion therapy, as told through the experience of a good family trying to reconcile their beliefs with human sexuality. The strength of the film comes from the adept way Joel Edgerton tackles the subject matter without cartoonish depictions of religious fanatics, and without overexaggerating cultural stereotypes. Hedges delivers another solid performance as the lead character, but it’s Nicole Kidman who steals the show as the hero every child needs. Her greatest moments arrive at the end of the film, showcasing the beauty of motherhood, a realistic portrayal of unconditional Christlike love.
As for conversion therapy, I’m relieved that most Christian faiths have ceased to practice it (including mine) but saddened by those whose lives may have been irreparably damaged by it. If there’s a message to be found from Boy Erased, it’s the reality that all of God’s children deserve love and safety, regardless of sexual orientation and regardless of religious beliefs. Since I believe in God and his commandments, I know God will judge each person according to their faith and obedience, and it isn’t anyone else’s right or responsibility to coerce anyone to behave in any way, except by the dictates of their own conscience.
Boy Erased Trailer