Film in review: five stars for Boy Erased

Greyson Mize, sports beat lead

Boy Erased is a 2018 Focus Features film based on a 2016 memoir of the same name by LGBT+ activist and author Garrard Conley. The film centers around Jared Eamons (Luke Hedges), the son of a Baptist preacher (Russell Crowe) and housewife (Nicole Kidman), who is outed as gay his freshman year of college. The storyline follows Jared as he is enrolled by his parents in a conversion therapy program led by an unlicensed religious organization full of unethical practices meant to “cure him” of homosexuality at any cost.

In addition to writing and directing the film, Joel Edgerton plays Victor Sykes, the eccentric organizer of the conversion therapy program whose character is based on the director of Love In Action, a program Conley was enrolled in as a young man. At the beginning of the story, Sykes serves as the main antagonist towards Jared and the other participants of the therapy, forcing individuals into confession, masculinizing exercises meant to promote heterosexuality, and encouraging Jared to drop out of college. However, by the end of the film, it is revealed that Sykes is the victim of the same ideology he preaches, profiting from opportunity presented from parents like the Eamons that would prefer their children be dead than gay.

Nicole Kidman and Luke Hedges deliver poignant and emotional performances as a mother and son with a close relationship divided by Jared’s father’s demand that he be cured. The film explores Jared’s struggle within the program as well as Mrs. Eamon’s decision to choose her son over her faith, going against the creed she was brought up with and the husband she loves. This relationship mirrors that of Garrard Conley and his mother Martha, who was a large part of the Boy Erased memoir and continues to support Conley’s advocacy in the present.

The score of Boy Erased helps to create an atmospheric and dramatic level to the film that would be lost without artists and composers Jónsi, Saunder Jurriaans, Danny Bensi, and Troye Sivan, who stars in the film as Gary. “Revelation,” the title song of the soundtrack by Jónsi and Sivan encapsulates the unique melancholy feeling of the film with passionate lyrics and orchestral accompaniment.

Boy Erased brings together a fantastic cast not only to highlight the outdated methodology still used in conversion therapy today, but to tell an impactful and complex story of the battle between spiritual beliefs, parental acceptance, and sexuality. While some aspects of the storyline are dramatized, for the most part, the film stays uniform with Conley’s memoir to shed light on horrifying ex-gay practices still completely legal in 36 states including Minnesota.