If a present-day story about gay conversion therapy camps seems far fetched, then I am sorry to inform you that there are kids across the world today who would disagree. Boy Erased is a biographical film based on Gerrard Conley’s 2016 memoir. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Joel Edgerton.
The film tells the story of Jared Eamons, an only child, an avid runner, an aspiring writer, and a Arkanas college student. On his journey from adolescence into adulthood, Eamons begins to uncover his true sexuality. The process of coming out to yourself and those close to you can be a vulnerable and testing experience. Having grown up in a rigid, Christian community, Eamons is fighting not only his own doubts but the rejection of his family.
His parents, played by played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, are equally as lost as to how to accept their son’s homosexuality. In fear and confusion, they turn to the leaders of their church, who recommend that Eamons endure gay conversion therapy. On his first day at the camp, Eamons seems almost hopeful that this ‘therapy’ will help him be the son his parents wanted. He even applauds chief therapist Victor Sykes, played by Edgerton. But after weeks of verbal abuse and being treated like a second-rate human, it is safe to say that this perspective radically changes.
The role is undertaken by 21-year-old Hollywood newcomer Lucas Hedges, who brings both vulnerability and resilience to the character. Hedges has quickly accumulated credits on an impressive list of award winning films including Manchester by the Sea (2016), Lady Bird (2017), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). However, Boy Erased is his first leading role.
For those who identify as LGBTQ+, this film creates visibility for an ongoing injustice that impacts their community to this day, and for those who do not, the film has noble intentions of fostering education, understanding, and empathy. Through a culmination of Edgerton’s direction, long cuts between scenes, music, and other factors, the film evokes the feeling of being uncomfortable or trapped. In almost every scene, from inside the conversion camp to his childhood bedroom, you can feel how trapped Eamons is by the conflict over his sexuality.
Boy Erased has helped to bring this issue of human rights and equality into popular society’s conversations. The awareness generated from the academy award winning cast is a substantial step towards creating change through action and fostering a global perspective on equality and acceptance.
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