'Boy Erased' Is Nuanced, Powerful Drama About Teen's Sexuality

Lucas Hedges stars in the true story of the dangers of gay conversion-therapy

November 8, 2018
Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges in 'Boy Erased.'

Focus Features

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Boy Erased has all the right intentions. The film succeeds in so many areas, and doesn't get too political. It stays safe and focuses on the family drama surrounding its main character and his struggles with identifying his sexuality.

Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is a teenager from Arkansas who's the son of a pastor, Marshall (Russell Crowe) and dutiful mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman).

While at college, Jared is outed by a classmate, and I'll spare some details there on how it happens. He's forced to tell his devout parents that he's had thoughts about men. Predictably, they're not happy.

The Eamons send Jared to a conversion therapy center called 'Love in Action' to controversially 'pray the gay away.' Is it the answer? Jared has so many questions about himself, and not all are answered. Its not until he talks to his fellow cohorts at the program where he starts to discover himself.

Based on the previews, this movie feels like a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination or two. And even though the story struggles to stay on track at times, balancing the therapy center drama with Jared's own drama at home with his parents, the heart of it is in the right place.

Lucas Hedges stunned me with his performance in Manchester By The Sea a few years ago, and he plays Jared with such powerful bravado that he deserves recognition beyond just this film. Eamons' character is based on the real-life story of Garrad Conley, who wrote a memoir after conversion therapy made him suicidal.

The point I'm trying to make -- I expect Hedges to get an Oscar nomination for this role.

The bulk of the movie takes place at the therapy center, where writer-director Joel Edgerton plays the 'villain' of the film Victor Sykes. Edgerton has conviction in his role. You can tell he wants this movie to work on more than one level. It is an earnest attempt, much like the film itself.

I say this because I feel the dangers of the conversion therapy program could and should lead to a culture war. We're reminded at the end of the film that conversion therapy continues to be widely practiced in a lot of states in the U.S., and that 700,000 teens have been effected by it. Only fourteen states plus D.C. have banned conversion therapy.

Other states have work to do it in working on curbing laws to protect minors from this dangerous and sometimes fatal, as we see in the film, practice.

This, at its core, is heartbreaking. As Troye Sivan reminds Hedges in a scene in Boy Erased, they tell you to "fake it till you make it." But for a lot of teens struggling with their sexuality, this is hard message to swallow.

For Eamons, he truly feels like a Boy Erased in the film, because his parents make him believe his sexuality is defined as a choice and a sin. This is the complication of the Eamons family life that isn't entirely explored.

However, it should be said that both Crowe and Kidman play their roles with stirring compassion. Kidman evolves as a mother, and Crowe dives deep into his role as father and pastor to a son who is as honest as a teenager can be.

Crowe's final scene with Hedges as father and son confronting each other about the issues they've face throughout the film make it all worth it. Tears could be flowing in the theater. Bring tissues.

The touching coming-of-age story that is Boy Erased can be heart-breaking, scary, and thought-provoking all at the same time. You'll still have plenty of questions after you see it, but its a satisfying watch nonetheless.

Ben at the Box Office Rating: 4 out of 5 Buckets Of Popcorn