Boy Erased review: 'Packs a poignant punch, but could delve deeper'

Joel Edgerton's film adaptation of Garrard Conley's 2016 memoir shines a long-overdue light on gay 'cure' therapy.


Words: Joe Passmore

With continued discussion around the world about the topic of gay 'conversion' therapy, (the Australian state of Victoria being the most recent place to ban the abusive practice), the themes raised in Boy Erased feel more relevant than ever.

Lucas Hedges plays Jared, the son of a Baptist preacher (Russell Crowe) who is sent by his parents to a Church-supported gay conversion program after being forced out of the closet.

Such stories still hold great weight in 2019, as shocking statistics when it comes to LGBTQ+ teenagers and suicide in the US, and these kinds of camps are often a driving force behind many mental health issues for children and teens.

Boy Erased’s awareness-raising intentions are clear and this is a simple, educational and sombre telling of the corrupt attempts at brainwashing that people like Jared continue go through. There is however a sense that the film does not delve as deep as it could do in terms of the kinds of emotional horror these kids through.

Writer-director Joel Edgerton makes a conscious decision to give the relationship between Jared and his parents priority, which is suitably effective but dodges the opportunity to really expose the darkest qualities of these terrible places. There are dozens of interesting subjects and potential stoyliens touched on throughout, but it never feels the audience is given enough time to really explore them.

Lucas Hedges and Russell Crowe do great jobs in their respective roles and Kidman is excellent (when isn’t she?) as Jared’s mother: Her internal struggle as to whether she’s doing the right or wrong thing for her child sits at the heart of the film, and something I’m sure many will relate with on some level. While in brief moments her scenes may feel a little saccharine, they are certainly this familial drama’s most memorable.

Though it packs an effectively poignant punch, Boy Erased does feel like a missed opportunity in parts, only really scratching the surface of its most important themes. But it remains a well-told story that sparks a conversation that's well-worth having.  

Rating: 3/5

Boy Erased is in cinemas now.