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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Stresses importance of accepting people as they are, not trying to force them to live a lie, and having the courage to do what feels right for yourself despite external social pressures. Encourages honesty and non-judgmental love between parents and kids.
Positive Role Models
Jared demonstrates courage when he comes out to his parents and confronts the dangers of conversion therapy. Nancy listens to her son when he tells her the program is bad for him and stands up to the men in the church (including her husband) to take him out of the program. Marshall doesn't understand Jared's sexual identity but grows to accept his son.
Based on memoir of LGBTQ+ activist Garrard Conley, movie explores damaging effects of gay conversion therapy. Queer characters played by out actors include Lucas Hedges and Troye Sivan; overall, the film portrays queer youth with sensitivity. Given Arkansas setting, cast is nearly all White except for Carl (played by Chinese-Vietnamese American actor William Ngo) in a minor role as one of Jared's fellow attendees at the conversion therapy program. Women also generally take a backseat except for Jared's mother, who has some agency as she learns to use her voice and stands up to her husband to protect her son.
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Violence & Scariness
A character is raped by a friend; the scene takes place on-screen under the covers. A young man is beaten with a bible by his family in a worship setting as punishment for being gay. Adult counselors push and try to prevent Jared from leaving the building. A character dies by suicide off-camera.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple embraces. Teens in their underwear swim in a lake at night. Two young men kiss, sleep next to each other while holding hands. A young woman offers to go farther, physically, than her boyfriend would like.
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Occasional swearing includes "f--k you," "s--t," "bulls--t," and "f--got." A discussion of sin and its consequences includes comments like "God will not love you the way that you are."
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Products & Purchases
Ford Mustang, iPod, Toyota Prius, Brooklyn Lager.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink beer at a party. Brief scenes of smoking include a man with a cigarette; two young men sharing a joint.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Boy Erased is a drama based on Garrard Conley's memoir about being forced to attend faith-based conversion therapy after coming out as gay to his Arkansas preacher father. From writer-director-actor Joel Edgerton and starring Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman, the movie tackles mature themes including sexual identity, the evangelical Christian position on LGBTQ+ rights, rape, suicidal ideation, and therapies that attempt to force people (in this case, a college-age teen) to stop "choosing" to be gay. Language is occasionally strong, with a few uses of words like "f--k," "s--t," and "f--got." Characters drink and smoke pot, and there's kissing/embracing and sex talk. A young man is raped by his friend, another character dies by suicide (off-camera), and a family is told to hit their son/brother with a bible. Ultimately, though, the movie stresses the importance of accepting people as they are and having the courage to stand up for what you believe. It also encourages honesty and non-judgmental love between parents and kids. Parents and teens will have plenty to discuss after watching. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This powerful drama benefits from moving performances and a thoughtful script that tells the heartrending story of a young gay man who's tackling faith and identity. Hedges, who earned an Oscar nomination for Manchester by the Sea and leads Boy Erased, impresses as a kind, intelligent, and loving teen who's struggling to reconcile his sexual identity with his upbringing in a conservative Baptist church. And while Aussies Crowe and Kidman may not have perfect Arkansas accents, they're very believable as well-meaning but confused Christian parents. Hedges plays Jared with nuanced restraint. He loves God and his parents, and he figures that "praying away the gay" must be worth it if it will take away the confusion and guilt he initially feels.
The stellar ensemble also includes the always fabulous Cherry Jones in a memorable cameo as an Arkansas doctor who holds science in one hand and God in the other, meaning that she knows there's nothing "wrong" with Jared. Her role is small, but it's important, as is Kidman's; Nancy ultimately puts her love for her son above the desires of her husband or the elders of his church. There's no denying that this movie, like the memoir it's based on, has a clear message: Conversion therapy is harmful at best and hateful at worst. Those who agree will find this film a moving reminder of how disenfranchised LGBTQ+ teens in certain religious communities are -- until they can live freely and be true to themselves.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate