★★★★ | Boy Erased
In 2004, at the age of 19, American Garrard Conley was sent by his parents to a conversion therapy program to rid him of his homosexual feelings. This true story is now a film called Boy Erased.
The amazing Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea) plays Garrard. He is a young man growing up in a small bible belt community in Arkansas. His father Marshall (Russell Crowe) is a respected pastor in the local church while his mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) believes in everything her husband says. But Garrard is given a choice by his parents when he tells them he is gay: either agree to attend the church-support conversion therapy program where he will have to go to a camp with similar young adults or risk losing his family, a family that he is quite close to. Garrard has no choice but to go through therapy. Garrard is happy being gay – even entering into a relationship with a fellow student at college – but it is his religious upbringing (and a stern father) which helps him make the decision to go to therapy.
Once he is at the Love in Action gay conversion therapy assessment program, he meets fellow young men like himself (including director and actor Xavier Dolan, and Joe Alwyn – at the time of this writing Taylor Swift’s boyfriend). They all struggle to not come to terms with the way they are, meanwhile all the time guided by the chief therapist Victor Sykes (writer and director of the film Joel Edgerton). But of course, Garrard has urges that he can’t control, while his parents feel that for him to lead a happy life is to lead the life of a straight man.
The real Garrard Conley, of course, luckily survived his time in the therapy program to write the book which is now this film, and it’s a very good film. Hedges, as always, is fantastic. One never knows what he’s thinking because of his inquisitive facial expressions, and he steals the movie from the two heavyweight actors who are playing his parents. Crowe is excellent as the self-righteous father but Kidman is both warm and tender as the mother who loves her husband but perhaps loves her son a bit more. Boy Erased is at times heartbreaking, but for the most part, it’s triumphant.
Boy Erased is out now and available to order from Amazon