Jared (Hedges) is a good kid. A great kid actually. The son of a Baptist preacher and his wife, the boyfriend of a wholesome girl, the friend who everyone adores. Jared is the kind of kid that makes his parent’s glow with pride. As they should.
But Jared has a secret that will rip his family and world apart. It shouldn’t, but it will.
Jared is gay and after a horrifyingly traumatic event, he is outed to his shocked and distraught parents. Unable to reconcile their religious beliefs with the news their son is gay, they send him to a controversial gay conversion camp in a neighbouring town.
The town is far enough away that Jared and his mother Nancy (Kidman), stay in a motel for the duration of his ‘therapy’. Each morning Nancy drives her son to the camp, leaving him for the day and returning to collect him every evening. Every day, he becomes more distant and his mother, wanting to be true to her religious convictions yet finding herself increasingly attuned to her son, surprises even herself later in the movie.
The therapy Jared receives is distressing to say the least. Isolated, berated, harassed, bullied and endlessly verbally attacked, these kids are broken by the nasty Victor Sykes (Edgerton) and his cronies. A few of the young people, tormented to absolute distraction, simply give in. They stand before their bewildered fellow inmates (I can’t think of another word to aptly describe these poor kids) and confess their sin of homosexuality.
Why should I watch it : An adaptation of the book Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley, this movie is confronting. It is not easy to watch, not at all, but that places like this exist in our modern world is truly scary. That people still persist with this view of homosexuality is even scarier.
The movie doesn’t stoop to portraying Jared’s parents as a pair of bible thumping, right wing morons either. They are the opposite. They are deeply loving, caring parents who truly believe they are doing what’s best for their son. The changing relationship between Jared and his parents, particularly with his mother, brings much needed warmth to the story.
As difficult as it is to watch, it’s a movie you should see. To educate yourself on what is really happening in some parts of the world, to witness the methods these vile people use to ‘cure people’ who are gay. I daresay they are similar to any type of ‘therapy’ that requires the breaking of the human spirit.
Expect some nominations come award season. Kidman and Hedges for sure. Maybe Crowe, maybe. And, fingers crossed, the endlessly talented Edgerton will finally get a nod.
Running Time: 115 minutes
Release Date: In cinemas now
Who is in it: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Madelyn Cline, Victor McCay, David Joseph Craig, Troye Sivan, Emily Hinkler, Lindsey Moser, Jesse LaTourette