Release Date(s)2018 (January 29, 2019)
Studio(s)Perfect World Pictures/Anonymous Content/Blue-Tongue Films/Focus Features (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
Boy Erased is based on the true story of a young man whose parents placed him in a conversion therapy center to “cure” his homosexuality. Well-meaning and following their Christian belief that homosexuality is a sinful choice, the parents decide that structured exercises will return the boy to normal.
Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is outed at age 19 to his parents, Marshall (Russell Crowe) and Nancy (Nicole Kidman). They confront Jared and he ultimately, and with great shame, admits that he does think about men in a sexual way.
In addition to being the owner of a car dealership, Marshall is the local pastor. He consults the church elders and he and Nancy follow their guidance to send Jared to a conversion therapy center called Love In Action. Jared is determined to cooperate fully to rid himself of his “sin.”
The center is far from their home, so Nancy accompanies Jared and stays with him in a motel nearby while he’s undergoing treatment. She is not permitted inside the facility. The director of the center, Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton, who also directs the film), welcomes Jared into the group and explains the rules. These include no cell phones, no outside reading, and no revealing what goes on within the center. This makes Jared close-mouthed when he and Nancy have dinner each evening.
The center’s techniques include a strict dress code, religious penance, inspirational lectures, construction of a family tree noting all who might be sinners, and role-playing induced anger exercises. Jared becomes consumed with inner conflict – he wants to be cured but sees more and more abuse, feeling that the center is trying to drain him of who he is.
The film attempts to be objective in its treatment of the family. The parents are portrayed as caring people whose religious convictions must be re-evaluated in terms of their own son. They are shocked by his revelation, but rather than revile him and throw him out, they look for a solution to what they believe is a serious problem of both spiritual weakness and sinful choice. Jared acquiesces because he loves his parents, is himself religious, and doesn’t want his homosexuality to shatter the family.
The program is part boot camp, part rehab center, and part detention center. The fact that Sykes seems to believe so strongly in what he’s doing is unsettling and chilling.
Jared’s therapy mates at Love In Action (Troye Sivan, Jesse LaTourette, Britton Sear) give us a look at how others are affected by the program – some fake compliance to get out quickly and move on with their lives, others become irreparably damaged. As Jared takes all of this in, he comes to see the center as something very different from what the brochures advertise.
Hedges, who was in Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, conveys a combination of guilt, hurt, confusion, and sadness as Jared. Much of his performance is in observing, reacting, and thinking about what he sees. His downcast look, hunched shoulders, and mournful eyes are not the indications of a kid getting healthier.
Director Edgerton shows how the demonization of a particular human trait and the fraudulent promises of a cure roil a single family, and how detrimental it can be for self-esteem, family relationships, and mental health. Currently, fourteen states and 47 counties, municipalities, and communities in the United States have banned sexual orientation change efforts (conversion therapy) for minors. On-screen titles at the end of the film tell what happened to these people.
The Blu-ray release contains a single disc plus a Digital Copy found on a paper insert within the package. Resolution is 1080p High Definition. Aspect ratio is 1.85:1. The picture quality appears softer than is typical in contemporary movies. The color palette is muted, in both outdoor and indoor scenes with a small amount of bright colors throughout. Dark or dimly lit scenes include the Eamons at the dinner table, Jared walking through the conversion center’s hallway, Jared writing his mood inventory in his room that's lit only by a desk lamp, and a critical scene involving a rape. At Love In Action, the boys all wear white shirts and tan pants and no one stands out. An abundance of close-ups on Jared show his state of mind at various points in the story.
Audio is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master. Optional French and Spanish language tracks in 5.1 DTS Digital Surround are also included. Dialogue is distinct throughout, whether in quieter scenes when Jared and his mother talk over dinner or in scenes at the center when Sykes has a large group of boys repeat various phrases in unison. Crowe’s Marshall is soft-spoken, so greater effort must be made to discern his dialogue. Because this is a drama, the audio level remains within a constant range.
Bonus materials include 8 deleted and extended scenes, two featurettes profiling the Eamons characters, and a brief look at director Joel Edgerton’s dual role as both actor and director.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
1. Jared Gets Surprising News
2. Party at the Lake – Extended
3. Jared Stares
4. Jared at Chloe’s House
5. Jared Goes Hunting
6. Marshall Paid the Bill
7. Sarah Borrows Jared’s Phone
8. Jared and Henry Go for a Run
Jared Revealed – The film is based on a memoir by Garrard Conley, who had to decide how he was going to face the world, in a lie or as his true self. Conley thought Lucas Hedges’ casting was perfect. Hedges comments, “I’ve never been given such an immersive world for the character’s inner life before.” Edgerton refers to Hedges as “a beautifully sensitive actor.”
Becoming the Eamons – The film focuses on the balance of love that we know and the terrifying aspects that cause us to hurt other people. Marshall believes that if his son has feelings for men, he must be evil. He has to confront his own ability to love. Edgerton notes, “His world is upset by his son’s sexuality.” The mother and son go on parallel journeys. Nancy has always fallen in line with the men in her life. The Eamons are a “family that has undergone an incredible amount of evolution and continue to do so.”
Man Consumed: Joel Edgerton – Edgerton, who loved the book, wrote a version of the screenplay. Hedges comments on Edgerton’s mastering of his dual role as actor and director, working tirelessly during 12-hour days. Edgerton notes that he was affected by the experience of placing himself in Jared’s world.
– Dennis Seuling