Boy Erased is based on the memoir of Garrard Conley’s experience with gay-conversion therapy. Adapted to screen by writer/director Joel Edgerton, the film allows its audience to come to a conclusion based on what’s presented. At its heart, the movie is about where we draw lines in our love, and if we do, is it truly unconditional love?
Lucas Hedges is Jared Eamons, son of minister Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe) and first lady Nancy Eamons (Nicole Kidman). Growing up a preacher’s kid, Jared finds himself at a crossroads between his faith and family after coming to terms with the fact that he’s gay. Upon his son’s coming out, Marshall seeks wisdom through church elders, while Nancy defers to Marshall’s leadership.
Marshall and Nancy enroll their son in a conversion program called Love in Action that’s directed by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). As time moves forward, Jared quickly sees that something is off in the therapy. His dutiful trust in his parents becomes shaken as he witnesses the degradation of his fellow participants. This sparks action in Jared to take his destiny into his own hands.
The film jumps around in chronology to give us a picture of Jared’s life leading up to Love in Action and beyond while giving us the “full picture” of Jared’s struggle. The key to this film is that Edgerton makes Jared our eyes into this world. Hedges has a way of displaying his internal conflict without wearing it on his sleeve. Instead, his journey in finding himself, standing up to his abusers, and charting his path in life is easier to understand because the message is not clouded by accusation or heavy judgement. Crowe and Kidman turn in authentic performances as well with both sides clinging to to their belief system.
Boy Erased’s conspicuous restraint allows its viewer to be haunted after the film by what they witnessed. After all, it’s the quiet, solitary moments in life in which we wrestle with the big questions.