BOY ERASED – Review by Susan Granger

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The tortuous turmoil of Garrard Conley’s ‘homosexual conversion’ therapy ordeal is chronicled in Australian filmmaker Joel Edgerton’s respectful drama.

After struggling with insecurities about his sexuality for years, 19 year-old Jared Conley (Lucas Hedges) was outed as gay to his devout, conservative Southern Baptist parents, Nancy (Nicole Kidman) and Marshall (Russell Crowe) Eamons.

“Do you swear to God you’re not gay?” his stern Arkansas pastor father, who owns a Ford dealership, asks him.

“No, I can’t do that,” frightened Jared confesses. “Because I do have those feelings.”

At his parents’ insistence, Jared begins conversion therapy at the Memphis-based ministry Love in Action detention facility, where sinister therapist Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) claims sexuality is a choice, influenced by poor parenting. He urges attendees to embark on secretive “moral inventories” of themselves and their families.

During indoctrination, flashbacks reveal that Jared had disturbing homosexual encounters during his freshman year in college. And there’s a cruel ordeal as another young man, Cameron (Britton Sear), is openly humiliated by Sykes, forcibly dunked in a bathtub, subjected to a fake funeral, and beaten with Bibles by therapists and his own family.

When Sykes summons Jerrod in front of the group, he denies that he hates his father and sneaks out to defiantly phone his protective mother to take him home. Soon after, Jared discovers that Cameron committed suicide while still in the program, and his mother eventually apologizes for her complicity in condemning him.

Based on Garrard Conley’s revelatory 2016 memoir, the leaders of many conversion therapy groups were fired. Indeed, after leaving the now-defunct Love in Action, repressed Sykes came ‘out’ and married another man.

Adapted with obviously noble intentions by writer/director/actor Joel Edgerton (who changed the characters’ names), it tackles a timely, controversial issue with admirable, if understated emotional depth. Pop star Troye Sivan and Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan play strategic supporting parts.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Boy Erased is a thoughtful, sensitive 7, aimed particularly at parents/families with LGBTQ children

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.