Joel Edgerton’s movie Boy Erased takes on the sobering realities of conversion therapy – a pseudoscientific practice that aims to change the sexual orientation of the “patient.” The practice is only banned in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
Based on Boy Erased: A Memoir, the film explores the dangers of conversion therapy through the life of Jared Eamons, the son of a Baptist preacher, as he comes of age as a young gay man in a small American town. The film tackles important issues of faith, sexual assault, and what it means to be gay.
The film’s strong suit is that it provides a realistic window into what conversion therapy is like for young men and women, but that is also its weak point. While I think it is very important that the film is honest and avoids stereotypes or villainizing characters, it also should also have explored other aspects of Jared’s life.
The film does not fully explore the dynamics of Jared’s relationship with his father or mother and instead shines the light on very obvious or surface-level interactions. Boy Erased is just a runthrough of Jared’s time at conversion therapy. Ultimately, the film needed a breath of complexity and nuance that it just didn’t deliver.
However, the performances from Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges were solid, and they gave a realistic depiction of what the real Eamons family went through. Generally, the cast did a great job in their performances and left one feeling as if they were a part of the family.
Additionally, the film’s inclusion of sexual assault brought to the surface the reality that LGBTQ individuals are very vulnerable to sexual violence. While the sexual assault plot in the movie should have been explored more, it did manage to give the film more nuance.
Overall, the film is an important watch for anyone who is not aware of the horrors of conversion therapy. As the suicide rates among LGBTQ youth rise, there also arises a responsibility for people to open their eyes to the situations of all kids. Boy Erased is an educational film that leaves viewers with an uneasy desire for change, which is the film’s goal. Mission accomplished.
Boy Erased is in theaters now and it is rated R.