Boy Erased had the bad fortune of being released in British movie theatres just very few months after The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which also told a very similar tale in a very comparable pattern.
Both movies are about conversion therapy and the emotional strain it takes on the young boys and girls subjected to it.
Both movies also become cautionary tales in the manner of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with curious and perceptive people fighting back against the establishments wherein they discover themselves.
The movie, premised on the narrative of the writer and intellectual Garrard Conley, may adequately represent the author’s perspectives, but it remains depressing and repetitive viewing. On the plus side, Lucas Hedges gives an excellent performance as Jared Eamons, the adolescent experiencing therapy.
Jared is vibrant, attractive, athletic, and well-liked at his Arkansas high school. Marshall Eamons, the community preacher, is very appreciative of his son. Nancy, his mother, adores him. He appears to be the stereotypical all-American high school student. However, when he goes on a date with his girlfriend, he becomes weirdly argumentative with her.
Then, in his first semester of college, he endures a heinous sexual assault at the hands of a male student. Jared is confused and perplexed. When he notices he is intrigued by other men, his dad seeks counsel from the church leaders and speedily transports him to the Love in Action institute, so his homosexuality can be completely wiped out.
Joel Edgerton co-stars as Victor Sykes, the institution’s director. Wackford Squeers, the gigantic headteacher in Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, is nothing like Sykes, a sniggering, conniving bully.
“You have to fake it until you make it”: Sykes’ Love in Action is based on such slogans and more like “Become the man you are not.”
He makes the people under his command draw detailed family trees, uncovering which of their family members were gay, alcoholics, or watched too much sexual content.
Jared is forced to discuss his “very ladylike” uncle Vincent.
Sykes is such a dreadful character that it’s difficult to understand how all these Arkansas guardians have left their children with him in the first place. He appears to be devoid of any academic credentials.
Jared is a day guest at the academy and is permitted to spend the evening with his mom in a motel.
Sykes makes him and every patient pledge not to tell their parents about the treatment.
Hedges portrays Jared with sensitivity and nuance. On the one hand, the lad sincerely wishes to reclaim his father’s affection and respect. On the other hand, he is horrified by Sykes’ techniques, unafraid of his sexual identity, and far too intelligent to take his father’s damnation and perdition preaching sincerely.
Nicole Kidman delivers an emotional performance as his mom, who is anxious to assist him but too enslaved to her partner to challenge why Jared has to go through gay conversion therapy.
Russell Crowe plays a touching dad who loves his son but is unable to conquer his own prejudice.