|Directed by||Joel Edgerton|
|Based on||Boy Erased: A Memoir|
by Garrard Conley
|Edited by||Jay Rabinowitz|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$11.9 million|
Boy Erased is a 2018 American biographical drama film based on Garrard Conley's 2016 memoir of the same name. It is written and directed by Joel Edgerton, who also produced with Kerry Kohansky Roberts and Steve Golin. The film stars Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Edgerton, and follows the son of Baptist parents who is forced to take part in a conversion therapy program.
Boy Erased premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2018, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was theatrically released in the United States on November 2, 2018, by Focus Features and grossed over $11 million worldwide. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who mostly praised the performances of the cast, and received various award nominations, including two Golden Globe Award nominations: Best Actor for Hedges and Best Original Song for "Revelation". The film won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release at the 30th GLAAD Media Awards.
Jared Eamons[a] is the son of Marshall Eamons, a successful car dealer and Baptist preacher in Arkansas, and Nancy Eamons, a self-styled hairdresser. He begins his first day at the Love In Action gay conversion therapy assessment program in Memphis, Tennessee. Chief therapist Victor Sykes tells the group that their sexuality is a choice influenced by poor parenting. He instructs them to perform harsh "moral inventories" of themselves and their families and requires them not to tell anyone else about what occurs during the sessions.
While performing his moral inventory, Jared thinks of his life prior to entering the program. In high-school, he was well-adjusted and happy, though he breaks up with his girlfriend upon starting college. Once there, he becomes friends with another student, Henry. While staying the night in Jared's dorm room, Henry rapes Jared and tearfully confesses that he has done the same to another young man. Traumatized, Jared returns home to recover. Henry calls the Eamons's home and poses as a school counselor in order to out Jared and ensure his silence. Jared confesses to being attracted to men. After consulting with other pastors, Marshall signs him up for conversion therapy, to which Jared reluctantly agrees.
Nancy rents a nearby motel room for her and Jared to stay in until he completes the assessment; however, Jared soon discovers that the therapy has no set end point, and may require him to move into an on-campus home if he fails to convince Sykes that he has become straight.
Weeks into his therapy, Jared gets to know the other attendees also seeking to become straight. Some, like Jon, are fanatically devoted to conversion to the point where they refuse to even touch other men. Others, like Gary, are merely pretending that the therapy is working until they can be released and return to a normal life; Gary urges Jared to follow suit, warning him that not doing so would lead to him having to move into the campus homes. At her insistence, Jared lets Nancy read the program's handbook, which is full of questionable psychology and obvious grammatical errors.
After failing an exercise, attendee Cameron is humiliated by Sykes in front of the group and intimidated with a fake funeral service. Cameron is beaten with bibles by both the therapists and his own family and forcibly dunked in a bathtub in one of the program's prison-like homes; a horrified Jared witnesses the event. Jared thinks of a brief, romantic, intimate encounter he had with an art student, Xavier, in college.
When Sykes attempts to goad Jared into saying he hates his father during an exercise, Jared angrily rebukes and condemns him. He storms out of the room, successfully retrieves his mobile phone, and calls Nancy to pick him up. Though Sykes, his counselors, and the other attendees corner Jared, Cameron stands up for him and escorts Jared safely to Nancy, who takes him home, horrified and ashamed that she allowed Marshall to enroll him in an unvetted program without researching its practices. Marshall remains adamant about Jared remaining in the program, but Nancy steadfastly overrules him. Soon after Jared learns that Cameron has committed suicide while still in the program's care. Marshall approaches Jared to console him, but Jared turns away.
Four years later, Jared has moved to New York City with his boyfriend. He writes an article that exposes the realities of conversion therapy. Jared returns home to convince his father to read the article and take accountability for his actions. The two begin to reconcile when he asks his father to visit him for Christmas.
- Lucas Hedges as Jared Eamons (based on Garrard Conley)[a]
- Nicole Kidman as Nancy Eamons (based on Martha Conley)
- Russell Crowe as Marshall Eamons (based on Hershel Conley)
- Joel Edgerton as Victor Sykes (based on John Smid)
- Joe Alwyn as Henry Wallace
- Xavier Dolan as Jon
- Troye Sivan as Gary
- Britton Sear as Cameron
- Théodore Pellerin as Xavier
- Cherry Jones as Dr. Muldoon
- Flea as Brandon
- Madelyn Cline as Chloe
- Emily Hinkler as Lee
- Jesse LaTourette as Sarah
- David Joseph Craig as Michael
- Matt Burke as Simon
- David Ditmore as Phillip
On June 8, 2017, it was revealed that a bidding war had begun between Netflix, Annapurna Pictures, Focus Features, and Amazon Studios for distribution rights to a film package set to star Lucas Hedges, Joel Edgerton, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, and be directed and written by Edgerton, based on Garrard Conley's memoir Boy Erased. On June 21, 2017, it was announced that the bidding war for distribution rights for Boy Erased had boiled down to Netflix and Focus Features, and the latter ultimately won the rights.
In the press release, Edgerton spoke proudly of the project, stating:
I'm excited to work with an ensemble of actors, seasoned and new, to bring Garrard's story to the screen. I think Focus is the perfect partner on this, and I will always thank Garrard for trusting my passion for his life story. I can't think of a better reason to get behind the camera again.
In August 2017, the majority of the supporting cast was announced. In September 2017, Joe Alwyn and Madelyn Cline joined the cast as well, and principal photography on the film began September 8, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. In April 2018, re-shoots took place.
Departures from source
The film makes several key changes to Garrard Conley's 2016 memoir. One pivotal scene in the film depicts the director of Love in Action pushing a lapsed participant onto his knees in front of a coffin and then having the young man beaten with a Bible. This scene does not take place in Conley's memoir. Scenes where a young man is dunked underwater and guards physically attempt to prevent Conley from leaving the treatment facility were also not present in the memoir. These fictional embellishments to the film have led to some criticism that Conley's narrative was used to make conversion ministry appear as a "boogeyman".[unreliable source?]
The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2018. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, first for the press and industry on September 8, 2018, and then for the public on September 11, 12, and 15. The film was initially scheduled for release on September 28, 2018, but was pushed back to November 2, 2018.
Boy Erased opened in five theaters and grossed $207,057, an average of $41,411 per venue, the thirteenth-highest opening weekend per-theater average of 2018. In its second weekend, it grossed $758,173 from 77 theaters. Overall, Boy Erased grossed $6.8 million in the United States and Canada and $4.6 million in other territories for a total worldwide gross of $11.4 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80 percent based on 254 reviews, with an average rating of 6.89/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Anchored in empathy by writer-director-star Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased proves the road to complex, powerfully performed drama can also be paved with good intentions." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 95% overall positive score and an 85% "definite recommend".
A.O. Scott of the New York Times noted a lack of nuance in the characterization of the Eamons family. Consequently, Scott felt the movie became no more than a "summary of its noble intentions". Ben Travis's review of the film on the news site Empire held a similar sentiment to Scott's, acknowledging that it "navigates the intersection between traditional religious beliefs and internalized homophobia". Despite positive remarks, Travis believed that the film failed to "connect as a human drama". Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly held a similar attitude, noting the film's strong message but stating it could have been better executed. Another critique, from Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, declared that the movie was lacking "comedy and lightness". Some critics honed in on the film's quality, like Benjamin Lee of The Guardian, who remarked of the film: "It's a curiously underwhelming, muted, often plodding two hours that fails to reach the emotional highs and devastating lows" that would be anticipated.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Nominee(s) and recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Artios Awards||January 31, 2019||Feature Big Budget Drama||Carmen Cuba, Tara Feldstein Bennett (Location Casting)
Chase Paris (Location Casting) and Shelby Cherniet (Associate)
|AACTA Awards||December 2, 2018||Best Adapted Screenplay||Joel Edgerton||Won|||
|Best Direction||Joel Edgerton||Nominated|
|Best Film||Kerry Kohansky Roberts, Steve Golin, Joel Edgerton||Nominated|
|Best Lead Actor||Lucas Hedges||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Russell Crowe||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nicole Kidman||Won|
|January 4, 2019||Best International Supporting Actor||Joel Edgerton||Nominated|
|Best International Supporting Actress||Nicole Kidman||Won|
|Camerimage International Film Festival||November 10–17, 2018||Best Directorial Debut||Joel Edgerton||Nominated|||
|Chicago International Film Festival||October 10–21, 2018||Gold Q-Hugo Award||Boy Erased||Nominated|||
|Critics' Choice Movie Awards||January 13, 2019||Best Supporting Actress||Nicole Kidman||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||January 6, 2019||Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama||Lucas Hedges||Nominated|||
|Best Original Song||"Revelation" – Leland, Troye Sivan and Jónsi||Nominated|
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||November 14, 2018||Best Original Song – Feature Film||"Revelation" – Leland, Troye Sivan and Jónsi||Nominated|||
|Humanitas Prize||February 8, 2019||Drama Feature Film||Boy Erased||Nominated|||
|Mill Valley Film Festival||October 3–13, 2018||Audience Award – US Cinema||Boy Erased||Runner-up|||
|San Diego International Film Festival||October 10–14, 2018||Audience Award||Boy Erased||Won|||
|Satellite Awards||February 17, 2019||Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama||Lucas Hedges||Nominated|||
|Best Original Song||"Revelation" – Leland, Troye Sivan and Jónsi||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Russell Crowe||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nicole Kidman||Nominated|
|GLAAD Media Awards||May 4, 2019||Outstanding Film – Limited Release||Boy Erased||Won|||
Commentators on this film have focused on the film's portrayal of conversion therapy and the context surrounding its implementation. According to Ross Ufberg in his article "Survival Tales from the Ex-Gay Movement", conversion therapy is best understood as "a form of counseling (vigorously opposed by the American Psychiatric Association) that aims to change the sexual orientation of patients by treating homosexuality as a mental disorder". The specific program referenced in the movie, Love in Action (LIA), was a facility in which individuals spent anywhere from a few weeks to multiple years. LIA represented a faction of a broader Christian, ex-gay movement that was sparked following the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual by the American Psychological Association in 1973, according to Austin Williams Miller. In the years following this removal, various associations funded research to showcase the efficacy of conversion therapy, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Williams Miller notes that activism fueled Boy Erased. Such activism protests the fact that as of May 2019, conversion therapy is still legal for minors in most jurisdictions in the United States.
Multiple sources point out the hypocrisy in some of the members of LIA who are noted in the film. In further analysis of the true story behind the film, Ross Ufberg discussed John Smid, an individual who spent years preaching the LIA ideology but eventually abandoned the program to live an openly gay life. According to Ufberg's analysis, Smid married two women prior to marrying a man. Subsequently, Smid publicly apologized and acknowledged that his "public presence is a trigger" to some people. Williams Miller noted that many of the lead members of LIA now live openly gay lives.
- In the film, Conley's character is named Jared Eamons. The names of other characters based on real-life people have similarly been changed throughout the film.
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