Jared, I want you to do well. I want you to have a great life. I love you, but we cannot see a way that you can live under this roof if you fundamentally go against the grain of our beliefs. Jared, tell me the truth, that’s all. -Marshall Eamons.
Would you hide whom you truly are to please your loved ones, or stay faithful to your religion? Would you be willing to risk losing them forever for the sake of your own happiness? Those are only a few questions Boy Erased repeatedly asks the audience with its heart-wrenching message. Based on the memoir of the same name by Garrard Conley, a teenager is forced into a conversion program after being outed to his parents at the age of nineteen. It is at this conversion program where everything is put on the line in the name of religion, love, and pride. The film boasts a star-studded cast: Lucas Hedges (Jared Eamons), Russell Crowe (Marshall Eamons ), Nicole Kidman (Nancy Eamons) and Joel Edgerton (Victor Sykes).
Boy Erased is not the first film this year to focus on conversion programs, nor is it the first film where religion is questioned, but it is the first film to focus on the impact these can have on a family. Edgerton—coming into his own in the director’s chair for only his second full length film—masterfully arranges scenes that convey how hard it can be to come out to religious parents, but just as well it can damage the core of a person who doesn’t want to let them down. Every character is complex and believable, but with that comes compassion for the character even if what they are doing is not quite right.
The events that take place in this film are honestly hard to watch for both religion advocates and the LGBTQ community. After all, conversion therapy is not only an ongoing practice in the United States, but so is the debate of whether homosexuality is natural. The words and practices that Victor Sykes (Edgerton), the main conversion therapist, use are honestly disturbing. What is said in this film will bring forth emotions in everyone, but also open up an argument that should be debated more. Boy Erased doesn’t try to condemn either side or preach a message, but instead focuses on the toil it can have on a family.
Hedges has made a name for himself with his supporting roles in some of the most talked about films of the past few years, but he has yet to have a leading role until now. His performance in Boy Erased is not only one of the best performances of the year, but the role that cements him among the best actors currently in Hollywood. He doesn’t have to talk to convince you of his performance. The delicate changes in his facial expressions and the tenderness in his body movements are enough to bring a certain realness to any scene he is in.
Kidman and Crowe, of course, deliver expected great performances. Crowe is ever so convincing as a hardcore pastor who believes his son is gay but also believes it is a disease. That being said, Kidman will be the most talked about between the two. She is a powerhouse in the latter half of the film, and her scenes with Hedges are the reason why you want to bring a box of tissues. Her character is the perfect example of how love and compassion can conquer in the face of the darkest tempest, and how all it takes is just one person to give a damn to make a change.