Boy Erased Parent Guide
An honest story told in a measured, non-sensational manner, but marred with a very disturbing scene of sexual assault.
Parent Movie Review
Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe) is a happy man. He owns a prosperous car dealership, is pastor of a growing congregation, and has a supportive wife, Nancy (Nicole Kidman) and a son, Jared (Lucas Hedges) attending college. Then Marshall receives a phone call, informing him that his son is gay. Stunned and horrified, Marshall turns to other pastors for advice and sends Jared to Love in Action, a treatment center dedicated to repairing the “God shaped hole” in the lives of those with different sexual orientations.
Jared is determined to succeed in the conversion therapy and return to university as a heterosexual. But he soon becomes disillusioned with the way Love in Action operates. Conversion therapy has been increasingly controversial over the past decade as survivors of various programs have shared accounts of abusive and psychologically destructive practices. This certainly describes Jared’s experience as he and his fellow attendees are subjected to cutting remarks, yelling instructors, public shaming, suspicion, and disrespect. They are told that God will not love them unless they change. Most chilling of all is a horrific scene of religious abuse where a gay student is brought to a coffin at the front of the sanctuary and is told that it is for him. He is then beaten with a Bible by his leaders, his parents, and other family members, before being dragged off to a bathtub where he is forcibly baptized.
Boy Erased is a difficult story to tell and director Joel Edgerton (who also plays the program leader) does so in a measured and non-sensational fashion. He also manages to respect Jared’s parents and their faith while clearly demonstrating the harm caused by their choice of therapy for their son. This is not an anti-Christian tirade, but it is certainly a damning indictment of conversion therapy.
Were it not for some serious content issues, this film would get a much higher grade. But parents must be aware that Boy Erased contains an extremely disturbing scene involving sexual assault where a young man is raped when his friend climbs into his bed, covers his mouth, and proceeds to assault him. The two are mostly covered by a blanket, but the victim’s cries are not completely muffled. Sexual assault survivors might be triggered by this scene and almost everyone else will be upset by it. It is completely unsuited to teenage viewers, even mature ones. Other issues in the film are minor, with seven curse words used in situations of extreme stress and some minor social drinking and very occasional smoking.
These content issues are particularly annoying because they prevent this film from being seen by a wider audience. LGBTQ audiences and their allies will almost certainly appreciate the honesty of this film. But Christian viewers might also be interested in learning from Jared’s experiences. And this violent sexual assault makes their attendance much less likely. Boy Erased may well have erased a part of its audience that would be enriched by its perspective.Directed by Joel Edgerton. Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe. Running time: 115 minutes. Theatrical release October 19, 2018. Updated November 20, 2018
Rating & Content Info
Why is Boy Erased rated R? Boy Erased is rated R by the MPAA for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use.
Violence: The leader of the treatment center yells at attendees in the program. Other leaders say harsh and unkind things. A young man is pushed into the wall by a staff member. A young man is repeatedly hit with a Bible, by program leaders and family member. He is then forcibly baptized in a bathtub. A young man is sexually assaulted by a friend (see Sexual Content for more detail). There is mention of a charcter’s suicide. A young man tries to escape from a treatment center and is held against his will until his mother and a fellow student help him get out.
Sexual Content: There is mention of masturbation and homosexuality. Two young men lay down on a bed and caress one another’s faces. A teenage girl refers to her date’s lack of erection and offers to help him achieve one. A young man rapes a main character: he climbs into his bed, covers his mouth to mask his screams, and rapes him. The characters are largely covered by a blanket so genitals are not seen, but the scene is deeply disturbing. There is a moderately graphic description of lesbian sexual activity. A shirtless man is seen in an advertisement.
Profanity: There are seven curse words: three sexual expletives and four scatological terms. They are used in moments of great stress. There is some discussion of sexual topics but it is not usually graphic.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is occasional social drinking; never to excess. A treatment leader is seen smoking on one occasion. A young man shares a cigarette with a main character.
Page last updated November 20, 2018
Boy Erased Parents' Guide
Lucas’s experience is not an isolated occurrence. Why do you think Lucas’s parents and others with similar views react the way they do to differing sexual orientations? Do you think it is possible for Christian parents to support their LGBTQ children while remaining within their religious traditions?
Christian faiths have different approaches to their LGBTQ members. Do you agree with any of them?
Some have traditional views on sexuality and condemn those with LGBTQ orientations:
Some have traditional views on sexuality but accept LGBTQ members:
Some have contemporary opinions on sexuality and embrace LGBTQ members:
When was the last time you had a conversation with someone whose opinions on these issues differed from yours? What did you learn from them? Is there benefit in these discussions even when no one changes their minds?
Read books about Boy Erased
This film is based on the memoir Boy Erased by Garrard Conley.
If you are interested in understanding the perspective of someone with a different sexual identity, try Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. This novel tells the story of two misfits: one who is transgender and the other who suffers from bipolar disorder. There is no sexual content in the book, but there is some bullying and profanity. Suitable for teens,
In That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family, Tom Christofferson writes about his lifelong struggle to balance his sexuality and his commitment to a faith with traditional views on marriage and sex. It is a moving story of family love and acceptance. There is no sexual content. Suitable for older teens.
Related home video titles:
Love, Simon tells the story of a teen who struggles to tell his family and friends that he is gay.
Lucas Hedges also appears in Moonrise Kingdom. Nicole Kidman stars in the family-friendly film, My Life. Joel Edgerton plays a father in The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which is also suitable for family viewing. Russell Crowe portrays the commanding Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.