Boy Erased is able to paint a chillingly accurate picture of what it feels like to be gay in a community that tries to erase the existence of lgbt people as if they were simply an annoying mistake in a beautiful picture you were drawing. You keep erasing the mistake and redrawing your supposed perfect piece, but you keep making the same mistake. It never really goes away. Directed by Joel Edgerton, who has directed movies such as The Gift and acted in the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby, based this film on the Boy Erased memoir by Garrard Conley.
Being gay myself, I was excited to see this movie. But I was not ready for how painful an experience it would be. Boy Erased follows Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) as his Baptist parents discover his sexuality and send him to a conversion therapy program called "Love in Action". Interesting enough, Jared is not sure about his sexuality and repeatedly denies that he is gay. Throughout the course of the movie, he is on his own spiritual journey to discover himself and come to terms with the fact that he was born this way and no type of therapy or medicine will change his sexuality.
The movies does a great job with taking itself seriously. For a serious topic, you need a serious movie and the movie is able to deliver on that prospect. It is able to immerse you into Jared's situation completely. You start to believe you could be in this program yourself. You can feel the pain and confusion the characters are going through. Even the most minute cases, each character is in pain and is crying out for help which they will not receive. You can feel the hopelessness.
Many reviewers of this movie, most of them on Google Reviews to be fair, feel the main character does not suffer enough. That the movie should have been about some of the other characters going through the conversion therapy program (Especially the boy who committed suicide). From my own experience, however, I believe this to be untrue. The fear you inhabit from being gay is more from the suspicion that something is going to happen to you. Especially being in such a stressful situation like conversion therapy. That puts the person under an extreme amount of mental stress. Your greatest fears become realized. You start to believe that something is actually wrong with you and that you need to do something about it. This confusion towards sexuality is portrayed perfectly in the movie through Jared as he increasingly gets angrier at men for "making him like this". One of the most powerful scenes is when he steps out of a restaurant to go for a jog and he ends up hurling a stone at an advertisement of a male model, which breaks the screen. On the surface level, this shows how angry Jared is about being in conversion therapy, but this also symbolizes a turning point in which he starts to actually agree with the therapy and hate himself. Breaking the one thing that he was learning to be comfortable with and attempting to get rid of it.
I agree that the characters in this movie needed a bit more development. I feel that most of them were not as deep as they could be. Especially Jared's father, who is one of the main "villains". He was only there to send Jared off to the program and then he does not make another appearance until the end of the movie. With the movie having a run time of 1 hour and 55 minutes, the director definitely had enough time to develop this character more, but it feels like he deliberately chose to only focus on one or two characters. Even the mother, who goes from agreeing with the father that something is wrong with their son to trying to figure him out and appreciate him for his differences, does not have much screen time. I believe this to be the biggest flaw of the movie, but could easily be changed by fixing some scenes.
The soundtrack, done by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, is simply beautiful. It manages to deeply pull at your heartstrings during your most vulnerable parts in the movie. It was the low, sad, piano music in the background that forced tears out of my eyes during the climax of the movie. (And I don't cry often!) The soundtrack helped the movie fly by when I watched it. Even though it as almost two hours, I was waiting for it to continue when the credits rolled and though it could be way longer.
Overall, Boy Erased was my favorite movie of the year. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone needs to see this movie to witness to nuances of figuring out your sexuality and how teaching people to be ashamed of themselves completely damages them in the end.