Based on the memoir of Garrard Conley, and written and directed by Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased is based on a true story that shows us the struggle of coming out, particularly in a religious home, and the dangers of conversion therapy.
Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) was the son of a pastor and grew up in a very religious home. While away from his family at college, Eamons began to experiment with his sexuality and, eventually, he was outed to his parents by a vengeful ex-partner. After seeking the counsel of fellow pastors, Jared is sent to conversion therapy by his father, Marshall (Russell Crowe).
During Jared’s time in conversation therapy, the audience witnesses the meritless and often abusive tactics that are taken to “cure” these boys of their homosexuality, like being hit repeatedly with a Bible to extract demons. In fact, boys would be so broken from this process that some would even commit suicide. To avoid the abuse, some would pretend to go along with the therapy in an effort get out sooner and continue living their lives as they see fit.
The villainous leader of the conversion program, Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), continuously pushes the boys to admit to some deep anger, particularly towards their fathers. It was assumed that there was some deeper reason why they were gay. They must have damage in them somewhere. However, Victor meets his match with Jared. He argues that he doesn’t hate his father. He’s not going to pretend like he’s angry as an excuse for who he is.
Jared lived a somewhat sheltered childhood with a longing for the freedom to be who he really was, and we see this symbolically with the scenes where he flies his hand out of an open window in a moving car. Despite his mother’s warnings, Jared knew this was what he wanted in that moment.
In many ways, Jared’s mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman) becomes the unsung hero of this story. She trusts her gut and goes against her husband’s wishes for the betterment of her son. She realizes that conversion therapy is wrong and refuses to continue to subject her son to the torture. We see this most in a very powerful scene where she says “Shame on you!” to Victor, but then says “Shame on me!” to herself, realizing the mistake she’s made in sending her son to the program. Nancy reminds us to trust out gut, stick to our guns and, most importantly, to know when to own up to our mistakes.
In Canada, conversion therapy only appears to be banned in 4 provinces.
In America, conversion therapy only appears to be banned in 14 states and 1 territory.
Boy Erased exposes the fact that conversion therapy is not “therapy” at all. It shows the travesty that has and can severely damage people if not stopped.