Growing up I was always able to be me around my family and friends, but what would it be like if I couldn’t. I can only imagine the torment that it would cause as you tow the line of trying to be a person you are not. We never want to let the ones we love down and often will go to great lengths to protect them, which in many cases means sacrificing for them. All of these thoughts came to mind as I watched Joel Edgerton’s new film Boy Erased. A story I have heard about, but never seen and I can honestly say that it changed me.
Jared (Lucas Hedges) is the perfect son in the perfect family. His father Marshall (Russell Crowe) is a pastor at a church and owns a Ford dealership while his mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) plays the heart of the family. Jared is everything you can want in a child in some worlds, good grades, polite, and has a good head on his shoulders, but things are not right, at least not to Jared. You see Jared looks to have it all together, but inside he is dealing with the confusion of wanting to be with men. At first this is not what he wants or who he wants to be, as in his world this is a sin. It is when he starts college that he starts to experience the world and when he is “outed” by another student to his parents he thinks nothing of himself and only that he doesn’t want to let them down. It is that reason that Jared agrees to go to attend a gay conversion program and in their eyes reverse the choice to be gay. The program though has the opposite effect and pushes Jared to accept who he is, but at what cost will that acceptance bring?
I have heard stories of these conversion programs, but hearing about it and seeing one play out can have different effects. From my point of view it is crazy that this is a practice in today’s world, that we don’t accept people for who they are and instead want to change them to who we want them to be. I know though there are people who think otherwise and I hope a story like the one told in Boy Erased will open some of their eyes. Edgerton’s story packs a few punches, but most of that comes from the experience of watching Gerrard’s Conley’s life as told through his memoir. The feelings come from watching Hedges, who in a short time has become a must watch actor, deliver that part of Gerrard’s life perfectly. While Hedges is the show, both Kidman and Crowe bring depth to the story with their subtle performances. This film played great to the crowd I was with, but I would love to see it with different crowds, because it added something to my viewing because of who I was with. This is a story that will provide gut punches to some, and that is a good thing, because anytime a movie makes you think it has done its job and more.