December 4, 2018 – This drama, based on a true story, uncovers the ugly reality behind a religious sexual orientation conversion center that sought to hide its true methods from the parents of children sent there for treatment.
This film is based on the memoir “Boy Erased” by Garrard Conley. The movie is directed by Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the screenplay. Edgerton also appears in the film as Victor Sykes, director of the Love in Action gay conversion therapy program.
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) stars as the main character, Jared Eamons, son of a Baptist minister who believes that homosexuality is the work of Satan. Jared's father talks him into trying the religious-based therapy program. Jared agrees because he believes he has a choice about being gay. He tries the therapy, but it doesn't work.
Jared becomes more alarmed by the aggressive tactics used by Sykes and others in the program. In one scene, a boy named Cameron (played by Britton Sear of “Unfinished Business”) is beaten with bibles wielded by members of his family and friends. In another scene, another boy is accidentally hit in the head with a baseball. The boys are encouraged to play baseball because it is considered manly.
The part of the therapy that bothers Jared the most is the inventory of sins he is supposed to find in his own family. Jared is told by Sykes that if Jared doesn't admit he hates his own father, he is lying. The therapy is based on the idea that sexual orientation is not based on a person's physical nature, but on external influences, how a person is raised, family examples, moral teachings, etc.
Early in the film, Jared is sent to Doctor Muldoon (Cherry Jones of “Knight of Cups”) who is supposed to check his testosterone levels. The doctor tells Jared that she expects to find he is a normal, healthy teenage boy, but she understands Jared's family because she is also religious. The doctor knows what Christian fundamentalists believe, but she also knows what the physiology books say, too. It is a difficult balancing act for her, Doctor Muldoon tells him.
This is also a balancing act by Jared, who tries the therapy, but he knows it is not changing the fact that he is sexually attracted to men, not women. He wants to believe he has a choice in his sexual orientation. However, he finds his choices are more limited than the religious fundamentalists believe they are.
The scenes of Jared coping with his feelings are hard to watch, including a homosexual rape scene, and Jared's uncomfortable relationships with his parents and friends. While there is a kind of peaceful resolution to Jared's dilemma, there is also tragedy at the Love in Action therapy facility.
The film ends with pictures of the real family that this story is based on, and some intertitles explain what happened to some of the real people on which this story is based. There is one real shocker in these final revelations, but I won't spoil it for you.
Lucas Hedges gives a strong performance here, as do Russell Crowe (“Noah”) and Nicole Kidman (“The Beguiled”) who play Jared's parents. Edgerton also gives a powerful performance, and Flea (“Baby Driver”) is appropriately menacing as Brandon, another counselor and guard at the Love in Action facility. This is an affecting, well constructed movie that gets its point across without being preachy. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.