[Screen It]


(2018) (Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman) (R)

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Drama: An eighteen-year-old gay college student must contend with his religious parents forcing him into a 12-day conversion therapy program.
Having eventually realized he wasn't attracted to his high school girlfriend, Chloe (MADELYN CLINE), 18-year-old Jared Eamons (LUCAS HEDGES) fully accepts that he's gay as he enters his first year of college. But after being raped by another student, Henry (JOE ALWYN), who then fakes being a school counselor, calls Jared's mom and outs him, the situation comes to a head at home.

The teen's parents -- local pastor and car dealership owner Marshall (RUSSELL CROWE) and his wife, Nancy (NICOLE KIDMAN) -- are religiously conservative and believe their boy is broken. But they also believe he can be fixed -- only if he wants that change, rejects the gay lifestyle and returns to God -- by attending a 12-day program at Love in Action.

That's a facility run by Victor Sykes (JOEL EDGERTON) with the help of aides such as Michael (DAVID JOSEPH CRAIG) that practices conversion therapy to turn gay boys and girls back into heterosexuals. Along with other attendees such as Cameron (BRITTON SEAR), Gary (TROYE SIVAN) and Jon (XAVIER DOLAN), Jared is essentially imprisoned for the day, only to return to a hotel room with his mom while they're away from home. Having to endure various aspects of Victor's "treatment," Jared tries to come to grips with his sexuality and his relationship with his parents in that regard.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
It's long been debated what causes a person to be who they become, usually boiling down to the nature vs. nurture arguments. The first, of course, is the preset code in one's DNA that determines height, skin complexion, eye color and so on.

The latter revolves around one's external environment, be that family, friends, schooling or what have you, along with substances (exposure to radiation or other toxins, drug use and the like) that changes and essentially pushes a person in a certain direction in terms of their behavior.

And despite more scientific studies that one can shake a stick at, sexual orientation still finds itself mired in the middle of that argument. Science says one's born with an inclination to be attracted to men or women (and sometimes both, and sometimes neither), while those leaning on the religious side of the discussion think it's due to a fault in one's internal wiring, being influenced by others (in person or via the media, etc.) or even the Devil himself.

For those latter reasons, certain groups of people came up with and continue to do this day pushing the notion of conversion therapy. Not only is it controversial, but it's been proven time and again not to work (despite "success" stories that end up never sustaining that achievement in the short or long term). Despite that, thousands upon thousands of people (mostly kids and usually teens once puberty has set in) have been put through that, often causing a myriad of psychological damage along the way.

Such a tale plays out in "Boy Erased," a well-made drama about seemingly well-intentioned parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman -- both Aussies somewhat oddly cast to play a highly religious Arkansas couple) who, upon learning that their college freshmen son (Lucas Hedges) is apparently gay, send him off to such a place for such a 12-day "we're gonna fix you right up via the Lord" program.

It's based on Garrard Conley's 2016 memoir of the same name where Conley wrote about undergoing such an ordeal as a teen upon orders by his Baptist pastor father. Well, this might come as a shock to you, dear reader, but it didn't work and not only that, the man who headed the "Love in Action" program and tried to preach the gay out of those present now lives, according to the "whatever happened to" closing text statements, with his husband. Yes, that's right. He's gay.

But the film doesn't delve into such matters or give any real hints to that about the fictitious version of him (played by Joel Edgerton who just so happens also to be the film's writer and director). Instead, it focuses on Jared Eamons (Hedges) who ends up in such a place once he's outed by a fellow college student who rapes him in his dorm room one night.

That doesn't happen at the beginning, as the filmmaker has his story jump around through time to portray what is happening and what transpired in the past (such as the protagonist, realizing, physically, that he's not into girls as he and everyone else believed him to be).

More to come...

Reviewed November 28, 2018 / Posted November 30, 2018

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