Boy Erased ★★★★

Joel Edgerton's sophomore feature is a bleak look inside conversion therapy. Boy Erased follows Jared (Lucas Hedges) as he is entered into a gay conversion therapy program led by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) after being outed to his parents.

Based on the eponymous memoir by Garrard Conley, the film does a magnificent job not only showing the warped, abusive nature of conversion therapy, but also in showcasing what the kids in therapy go through mentally. Jared’s journey isn’t instantly rebellious nor is he necessarily in the program against his will.

Hedges plays the troubled teenager with confusion and pain as he struggles with who he really is and his desire to be “fixed.” Hedges incorporates these elements into his performance while also showcasing the way the character processes trauma in his past. While it is perhaps a more subtle performance than his grief-stricken role in Manchester by the Sea, it is just as powerful.

The depiction of the conversion therapy program feels so authentic that my blood was boiling at many of the sequences. The kids are humiliated, shamed, and degraded for their “sinful behavior”. It leads to truly heartbreaking moments where the kids in the program are either speaking candidly to one another or publicly to the group.

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play Jared’s parents in the movie and while both are great in scenes opposite Hedges, it’s Kidman’s performance that stood out to me. Crowe and Hedges have some great scenes together, but Kidman’s portrayal of Jared’s mom was beautiful. The way the movie displays the bond between a mother and her child is really wonderful.

I really enjoyed Boy Erased. There are some supporting character beats that I wish would have been explored more, but they don’t break the movie. In a lot of ways, Boy Erased reminds me of 2015’s Spotlight in the way it tackles a different kind of child abuse under the guise of religion. Even though Boy Erased’s subject matter may not seem as widespread an evil on the surface as Spotlight’s more shocking revelations, it still tackles a subject that needs to have a light shone on it.