Boy Erased film review: topic to talk about

Nicole Kidman as Nancy Eamons and Lucas Hedges as her son Jared Eamons.
Nicole Kidman as Nancy Eamons and Lucas Hedges as her son Jared Eamons.

BASED on the memoir by Garrard Conley, Boy Erased follows Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), a college-aged boy from a small town in Arkansas and his experience in gay conversion therapy.

His father is a fundamentalist preacher and Jared’s sexuality is seen as a sin by his parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) and even by himself.

He agrees to take part in daily group therapy sessions lead by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton).

The film walks a fine line between condemning those who effectively abuse young people by denying their sexuality and attempting to understand why people, like Jared’s parents, act the way they do.

Scenes during the therapy sessions, with some of the other participants played by well known LGBTQ+ figures, such as singer Troye Sivan and director Xavier Dolan, are hugely confronting as Sykes and his counterpart ex-con Brandon (Flea) try to bully the young people into “straightness” through manly handshakes, standing up straight and blaming their families.

It is immensely hard to listen to Joel Edgerton’s character state toxic views against homosexuality as fact, opinions well known to be fatal to young, gay people.

Hedges’ performance as Jared is outstanding with every emotion and thought conveyed through his face, you just want to give him a hug and tell him everything will be OK.

The storyline centres on his struggle between his faith, his wish to stay connected with his parents and his desire to be true to himself.

Boy Erased may be preaching to the choir with its efforts to convince audiences that gay conversion therapy is tantamount to child abuse.

But the number of US conversion camps listed when the credits roll are a reminder this topic needs to be talked about.

THE ESSENTIALS

Boy Erased (MA)

Directed by: Joel Edgerton

Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe

Three and a half stars

Review by Lucy Rutherford

In cinemas November 8