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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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, date 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 encourages honesty and encouragement between parents and kids. Parents and teens will have plenty to discuss after watching.
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What's the story?
BOY ERASED is based on Garrard Conley's same-named memoir about growing up as the son of a Baptist minister in Arkansas and being sent to Christian conversion therapy after coming out to his parents as gay. Directed by Joel Edgerton, the drama stars Lucas Hedges as "Jared" and Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as his evangelical Christian parents, Marshall and Nancy. Jared is willing to attend the harsh therapy to appease his parents, who tell him they have no place for him at home or church if he's not willing to change. But the program turns out to be harmful and causes many of the attendees to feel isolated and suicidal. As Jared comes to terms with his faith, family, and sexual identity, he grows hopeful that he and his parents can still have a relationship.
Is it any good?
This powerful drama benefits from moving performances and a thoughtful script that tells the heart-wrenching story of a young gay man who's tackling faith and identity. Hedges, who earned an Oscar nomination for Manchester by the Sea, impresses as a kind, intelligent, and loving teen who's struggling to reconcile his sexual identity with his upbringing in a very 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
What's the movie's ultimate message about sexual identity? What do you think about the movie's ending? How did it make you feel?
How does the movie portray the evangelical community's stance on LGBTQ individuals? What is the movie saying about conversion therapy programs?
Does the movie make you want to learn more about Garrard Conley and his story?
- In theaters: November 2, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: January 29, 2019
- Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe
- Director: Joel Edgerton
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use
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