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The son of a Baptist preacher (Lucas Hedges) is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program run by a therapist (Joel Edgerton) after being forcibly outed to his parents (Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman).

Review by Louise Keller:
The taboos between faith and homosexuality are canvassed in this sensitively directed and shocking expose about conversion therapy. Joel Edgerton’s film takes a hard look at the issues involved in treating same sex attraction as a disease and the resulting personal conflicts. Based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, our journey is through the eyes of the young protagonist Jared (Lucas Hedges), whose upbringing as the son of a Baptist preacher leads him into a profound quandary, making him question himself, his sexuality, faith and relationship with his parents. The film’s strong themes are echoed by the performances, offering Hedges his best role since Manchester by the Sea (2016). Here he ably showcases Jared’s inner conflicts, anger, confusion and frustrations. Prepare to be outraged.

While the father son relationship is central to the film’s heart (Russell Crowe perfectly embodies Marshall Eamons, inflexible man of God), it is Jared’s relationship with his mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman, sympathetic) that keeps the family ties strong. Most of the action takes place in the Arkansas Conversion Centre, where archaic methods of intimidation, fear and secrecy are implemented. We learn of Jared’s background through flashbacks that show key moments: his first girlfriend; a brutal college homosexual encounter. Watch Crowe and Kidman’s eyes in the scene when Jared tells his parents he is gay. Crowe’s are filled with disgust; Kidman’s with dismay.

God will not love you unless you change, says Edgerton’s conversion therapist, to the forsaken, vulnerable group before him. He is terrifying. Change? Fake it? Or rebel? These are the options facing Jared as he struggles with his emotions and fundamental beliefs. The best scene is kept till last, when Crowe and Hedges come face to face: key issues are voiced and hearts are exposed. It’s a potent and revealing discussion about change and we understand how the dynamic and balance has shifted.

Look out for the photographs of the real Garrard Conley and his family during the closing credits. They add an extra element to this already powerful and eminently disturbing film.

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(US, 2018)

CAST: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Madelyn Cline, Victor McCay, David Joseph Craig

PRODUCER: Joel Edgerton, Steve Colin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts

DIRECTOR: Joel Edgerton

SCRIPT: Joel Edgerton, Garrard Conley (based on memoir Boy Erased)


EDITOR: Jay Rabinowitz

MUSIC: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 8, 2018

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