Connect with us
'Boy Erased' shows power by shying away from making broad claims in a situation that is not always black-and-white.


TIFF 2018: ‘Boy Erased’ Explores Family Strife Through Conversion Therapy

‘Boy Erased’ shows power by shying away from making broad claims in a situation that is not always black-and-white.

Joel Edgerton’s 2015 directorial debut, The Gift, was a powerful movie about the impact that someone’s words and actions can have on another, and so it makes sense that Edgerton’s follow-up as a director would be this year’s Boy Erased. Adapted from the memoir of the same name by Garrard Conley, the film explores the effects of parenting in the context of two Christian parents who send their teenage son to conversion therapy after they discover that he is homosexual. While the way the story is told feels slightly familiar, Boy Erased contains incredible performances from its entire cast, and tackles its topic with a careful nuance.

What makes a story about conversion therapy inherently terrifying isn’t necessarily what seemed to be at the forefront of Edgerton’s mind when he wrote this screenplay. Focusing on how Jared’s (Lucas Hedges) parents convince him that he should attend conversion therapy, and subsequently how they react when he tries to convince them that he should not be there, is an interesting, slightly controversial take on this subject. While Jared remains at the forefront, there’s a familial angle that tears into his judgement.

Jared’s father, Marshall (Russell Crowe), is a Baptist preacher who is horrified by the fact that his son is gay, while Jared’s mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman), stands by her husband’s decision to try and guide Jared to heterosexuality. Edgerton plays Victor Sykes, the head of the conversion therapy program. Yes, the “Oscar-bait” material is very present in Boy Erased, for those concerned about whether the film is what it looks like it is. There are directorial decisions that give the film a more tense, dark nature, but it never quite shakes its typical dramatic trappings.

Boy Erased

Far more interesting is that Boy Erased doesn’t often give in to characters yelling at one another. There’s a great moment where Victor is confronting Jared about his homosexuality, and how it is a slight against God and his father. In a situation such as this, there’s an expectation of things escalating out of control, but Jared’s character is aware of the kind of place he’s in and the rules that are applied to him. He knows what actions he’s allowed to do, and it fundamentally changes the way the emotions flow through that scene. It’s a sterilized anger, one that demonstrates just how manufactured conversion therapy and its “results” actually are.

Had it not been for the casting decisions in Boy Erased, scenes that could make audiences cringe from how heavy-handed they’re written are actually conveyed with more subtlety than one would expect. Hedges isn’t a moody teenager — he’s a teen who is trying to make everyone happy, but needs to discover what makes himself happy first. Marshall is perhaps the most obvious character arc, but Crowe plays him with a subdued, careful nature. He doesn’t yell often, but you can see the strain on him as a father and as a man of God. It’s another interesting angle that Boy Erased contends with, but doesn’t focus on a lot; Jared’s own relationship with God mostly sits in the backseat for the majority of the film.

Boy Erased

Instead, it’s that family dynamic that keeps coming back. Jared isn’t so much concerned with how he can reconcile his faith with being gay; it seems there is a part of him that has already accepted God in his heart, even if God apparently can’t accept him and his orientation. Edgerton chooses to focus on what being homosexual means to Jared’s family. Kidman shines as Nancy, reaching into a character that develops because of Jared’s struggle. His struggle isn’t downplayed in lieu of Nancy’s plight, but both represent two people torn by actions made or a lack thereof.

Boy Erased may ruffle some feathers because of its look at how being gay affects a family that chooses to utilize conversion therapy, instead of being more confrontational about the program. It definitely condemns the use of conversion tactics, but it’s not the primary motive of Edgerton’s screenplay. He’s trying to make something powerful that almost acts as a guide for parents and children that are dealing with this strife in their family. He doesn’t condone or condemn the decisions made by Jared’s parents — he just tries to understand why anyone would send their kid through this hell. Ultimately, that’s what lets Boy Erased be as powerful and important as it is — it shies away from making broad claims in a situation that is not always black-and-white.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 6 – September 16. Visit the official website for more information.

Written By

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Victoria, British Columbia. Given a pint, he will talk for days about action films, video games, and the works of John Carpenter.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



2001: A Space Odyssey 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: Clarke and Kubrick’s Odyssey of Discovery


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie review Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Caps Off the Trilogy With a Heartfelt Bang (Mostly)


Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world

25 Years Later: Deep Impact was a Serious Look at the End of the World 


The Best Movies of 1973 The Best Movies of 1973

The Golden Year of Movies: 1973


The Zone of Interest The Zone of Interest

Cannes 2023: Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a Manicured Vision of Hell


Jeanne Du Barry review Jeanne Du Barry review

Cannes 2023: Maïwenn’s Great Hair Goes to Great Lengths in Jeanne Du Barry


Black Flies Gripping Black Flies Gripping

Cannes 2023: Black Flies— Gripping Descent into the Underbelly of New York’s Urban Misery 


Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project

Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City is a Gimmicky Vanity Project


La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: La Passion de Dodin Bouffant:

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: Surfeit Cooking Drama Most Inane Film at Cannes


BlackBerry movie review BlackBerry movie review

BlackBerry Is a Wonderfully Canadian Account of a Dying Tech Dream


The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez

Jennifer Lopez’s The Mother is Eerily Similar to Enough, But That’s Not a Bad Thing


Godzilla 1998 Godzilla 1998

Godzilla at 25: When Hollywood Made a Manhattan Monster Movie, with Disastrous Results


10 Best SummerSlam Matches 10 Best SummerSlam Matches

10 Best SummerSlam Matches


Sean Connery Sean Connery

60 Years Later, Dr. No Remains the Paragon of Bond


The Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Reloaded

20 Years Later: The Matrix Reloaded was Underwhelming, but Still Underrated


Discovery channel Discovery channel

The Head-Scratching Moves Discovery Has Been Making