Being gay myself, I was excited to see a movie that portrayed the struggles of people like me. But I was not ready for how painful an experience it would be. 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 the community was drawing. Often religious, these communities keep erasing the mistake in hope to purify their supposed sacred piece but they keep making the same mistake. It never really goes away no matter how hard these communities try. Directed by Joel Edgerton, who has acted in movies such as The Gift and the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby, based this film on the Boy Erased memoir by Garrard Conley.
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. For me, I started to believe I could be in this program myself. I could feel the pain and confusion the characters were going through and that pain started to weigh down on me as well; I felt at risk. It was extremely uncomfortable sitting through the "treatment" scenes and that is exactly the point. That even for the most minute cases, each character was in pain and was crying out for help which they will not receive. I could feel the hopelessness festering in the treatment facility.
Many reviewers of this movie, most of them on Google Reviews to be fair, believe that 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 I have inhabited from being gay is more from the suspicion that something is going to happen to me. Especially being in such a stressful situation like conversion therapy. That puts the person under an extreme amount of mental stress. My greatest fears become realized. and I actually start to believe that something is actually wrong with me and that I need to do something about it. I was able to connect to Jared because his feelings of confusion were palpable through the screen.
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.
Many reviewers also believed that the characters in this movie needed a bit more development and I agree with that conclusion. 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 even though she is an extremely important character in Jared's life. I believe this to be the biggest flaw of the movie, but could easily be changed by fixing some scenes, which would enable Jared to completely describe one of his biggest stressors in the film: his family.
The soundtrack, done by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, is simply beautiful. It managed to deeply pull at my heartstrings during my 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 I thought the movie could be longer.
Overall, Boy Erased was my favorite movie of the year. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone needs to see this movie to witness the nuances of figuring out your sexuality and how teaching people to be ashamed of themselves completely damages them in the end.