REVIEW: Boy Erased While Not Wildly Original Still Delivers a Great Message
Boy Erased, featuring Lucas Hedges and Nicole Kidman, is an emotional movie based on the true story of a preacher’s son who was forced to go through conversion therapy in the early 2000’s. Jared, the main character, is outed as gay and attends a conversion therapy program where he and other LGBTQ+ individuals are physically and emotionally abused. The story did hit some emotional notes and felt genuine, ending with a message about conversion therapy and the horrific fact that it’s still legal in 36 states, affecting hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this film, but its plot feels very close to that of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, another movie released in 2018 that features a lesbian girl who is outed to her aunt and forced to go through conversion therapy. Looking into the details further, the main issue I have with Boy Erased is that it doesn’t do much beyond what The Miseducation of Cameron Post accomplishes. In both, the main character is sent to a conversion therapy program by their religious guardians and slowly begin to realize that they don’t want to change who they are. In both movies, the people in charge of the programs are abusive physically and emotionally, causing individuals involved to self harm. Boy Erased also features a gay white male as the lead, and pretty much all the other LGBTQ+ individuals are gay white boys and lesbian white girls, whereas The Miseducation of Cameron Post included multiple people of color along with a two-spirited individual. I won’t go into further detail and spoil both movies, but some of the details in the plots feel very similar, despite their endings being pretty different.
One thing that I couldn’t help but feel confused by was the choice of pacing in this film. Throughout the film, there are flashbacks to before Jared’s time in conversion therapy, which feel somewhat necessary. There are moments that are necessary to understand Jared’s character, but other moments that seem to stretch on for longer than necessary. The film seemed to jump between past and present, then stay in the past for longer than necessary. For the most part this wasn’t a major problem, but I felt as if the flashbacks could’ve been done slightly differently or even slightly less often.
Lucas Hedges is a great actor, with roles in the past few years including Manchester by the Sea (which he received an Oscar nomination for), Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Mid90s. His acting ability shows in Boy Erased, as he gives a great, emotional performance. There are several monologues that definitely hit home and felt real. Nicole Kidman also gave a good performance as Jared’s mother, creating a complex, but loving relationship with Jared.
The overall message of the film is also incredibly important. As much as society has improved for LGBTQ+ individuals, conversion therapy and homophobia still exist. This film highlights just a few of the horrors of conversion therapy and shines a light on the fact that these still exist today in 2018. I enjoyed Boy Erased and would recommend it to others, despite its flaws and similarities to The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Despite not standing out as much as it could, Boy Erased comes with a great message and several great performances.