Boy Erased is a brutal film on gay conversion therapy, and straight people need to watch it

Catch Joel Edgerton’s film at the Vancouver International Film Festival on October 6, or in theatres November 2018

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

By: Winona Young, Arts Editor

 

Boy Erased is centred around the story of a young man sent to a gay conversion therapy program. Taking place after his first year of university, Jared Eamons (played by Lucas Hedges), the son of a soon-to-be-Baptist priest (Russell Crowe) and dutiful mother (Nicole Kidman). The film shows Jared’s time at the Love In Action (L.I.A.) center and his journey leading up to it.

      Not only is the film an adaptation of a famous memoir, but across the board, the film features stellar performances — from Russell Crowe as a prideful but deeply confused Baptist father to Nicole Kidman as a loving, if not impassive mother. Not only do big names from the cast shine in their respective roles, but actors like Britton Sear excel as the soft-spoken Cameron or Théodore Pellerin as a caring Xavier.

     Given the fact that all of these characters are based off of real people, what struck me about Boy Erased was the deep empathy that each actor applied to their character, including the not-quite-antagonist of the film, head therapist Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). Each are crafted with such sympathy and depth, it easily makes some of the performances, most notably the young Lucas Hedges’, utterly poignant.

     The soundtrack included for stirring and tense instrumentations from Sigur Ros’ Jónsi, or loving ballads from the film’s own Troye Sivan — both of which helped fully carry the emotional weight of the film, respectfully.

     Boy Erased takes the bold stance that coming out is not only a time of forgiveness and acceptance, but of overdue apologies. We follow Jared’s tale mostly in silence — we absorb and live in Jared’s life as much as possible. And in doing so, we are exposed to the injustice and apathy he receives.

     When the film reaches its emotional crescendo, it affirms not just the tired sentiment of  “I’m gay and it’s OK,” but “You need to be OK with the fact that I’m gay.” The film excels in its poignancy and radical nature with having a gay character not only assert their own acceptance for themselves, but to demand that they be given that acceptance unabashedly.

     Which brings me to why I adore Boy Erased so much — out of so many coming-out narratives, especially done by straight filmmakers, this is the most radical in being an unabashed story of coming out, demanding not only tolerance and acceptance, but an apology, from its straight counterparts.

      The film, of course, is not without its flaws. The use of voiceover, while running contingently with the book, may be confusing to audiences who haven’t read the memoir. Also, when dealing with something as contentious as sexual assault, a trigger warning would have been very much appreciated, especially since the content may very well be tragic to LGBTQ+ youth who have gone through the same thing.

     While the film does little to balance the flashbacks with its current storyline, at times jumping drastically, it does ultimately weave a cohesive story of Jared’s growth.

      I hope that this film be helpful for religious LGBTQ+ youth, and more importantly, as actor Troye Sivan himself said in an interview with Stephen Colbert, the parents of such youth. With only Pride having passed just a month ago, it can be difficult for straight individuals to truly understand the plight of LGBTQ+ community, but with a film like Boy Erased, that gap of understanding can be bridged. This film serves as a microcosm of change, and as director Joel Edgerton said at the film’s screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, it will be redundant after a few years.

 

Boy Erased will be available for audiences at the Vancouver International Film Festival on October 6, and in theatres November 2018.