Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), the son of a small-town Baptist pastor, must overcome the fallout after being outed as gay to his parents. His father and mother struggle to reconcile their love for their son with their beliefs. Fearing a loss of family, friends, and community, Jared is pressured into attending a conversion therapy program. While there, Jared comes into conflict with its leader and begins his journey to finding his own voice and accepting his true self.
Joel Edgerton wowed audiences back in 2014 with his feature directorial debut The Gift, which proved to be an incredibly promising start for the man otherwise known for his great acting abilities. The film was incredibly intense and left you wondering about various things for the entire running time, and once you see where the story is ultimately heading, you’ll definitely be in for a shock.
So, because of how great The Gift was, I was quite eager to see what he would bring to the table with his second feature as a director – Boy Erased, which is a mixture of a coming-of-age tale and a story about wanting to fight back against people when you feel like you’re being held down by them or being suffocated.
Boy Erased is genuinely heartbreaking to watch at times. We all know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being attracted to the same sex, but the majority of the characters in this film don’t necessarily agree. They want to convert Jared out of his homosexuality and they do everything they can to try to convince him that being gay is a sin. They tell him that God and Jesus will not love him if he continues his current lifestyle choice.
Jared is a Christian and grew up in a Christian family his entire life. He obviously doesn’t want God to hate him but the people in the conversion therapy program are telling him that if he wants to be loved by God, he must be straight. He doesn’t know what to do or where to turn to for guidance. Is this true? Will God not love him for being gay?
Obviously, he will still love him, but he isn’t too sure for the duration of this movie. Seeing Jared’s journey and watching him learn to love who he is was equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting. By the end of the movie, I felt as if I had just watched the events of an actual man’s life.
The movie does have a big problem with its other characters, however. All of the other people that are enlisted in the conversion therapy program get absolutely nothing in terms of character development. I understand that the screenwriters wanted this to be a movie solely about Jared’s character, but it’s still something that bothered me.
And there are some times in which the film suffers from some pacing issues. It’s a two-hour movie that feels a little bit longer than it actually is. The first act moves along rather slowly, but once the second act kicks into gear, the story gets more interesting and engrossing as a whole.
I think that a lot of people are going to get a lot out of Boy Erased, especially if they are struggling with identity issues in their personal lives. It’s never too preachy about its message. It’s simply a powerful movie with an excellent message at its core – you should love yourself for who you are. Don’t change yourself for anybody, no matter what.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including an assault, some language, and brief drug use
Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release Date: November 2, 2018
Running Time: 115 minutes