Park City Film looks at conversion therapy with ‘Boy Erased’
Park City Film presents “Boy Erased,” rated R 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28, and Saturday, Dec. 29; 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30 Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave. General admission $8; Students and senior citizens $7 parkcityfilm.org
Conversion therapy, a scientifically discredited process with the intent of changing a person’s sexuality through psychological and physical means, has, to date, been used on nearly 700,000 teens and adults since 1952, according to a study by the University of California Los Angeles.e
The “therapy” can include everything from psychological manipulation to verbal abuse to physical torture like the application of intense heat, cold and even electric shock to a person who is bound to a table.
Joel Edgerton’s 2018 film, “Boy Erased,” tells the story of one of those thousands who was sent to conversion therapy by their family, and Park City Film will screen it from Dec. 28 through Dec. 30 at the Jim Santy Auditorium. The film, based on a memoir by Garrard Conley, stars Lucas Hedges as Jared Eamons, the openly gay son of Marshall, a Baptist pastor (Russell Crowe), and his wife, Nancy (Nicole Kidman).
Park City Film Executive Director Katharine Wang first saw “Boy Erased” at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this year.
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“I’m a big fan of Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, and I was also intrigued by the story and issue,” Wang said. “It also tells the story of how these conversion therapy programs are like and how psychologically and physically damaging they are to the individual going through them.”
While the practice has been shown to negatively affect those who undergo it, conversion therapy is only explicitly banned in only 15 states and in Washington, D.C.
Utah, which has one of the nation’s worst teen suicide rates, isn’t one of them.
“That’s kind of shocking, how many states still continue to allow conversion therapy in this day and age,” she said.
The film’s plot centers on the internal and external conflict that follows after Jared comes out to his parents and he’s sent to conversion therapy. All the while, he weighs his identity against his connection to his family and community.
“The film beautifully tells the story of this boy coming into his own, and learning that being homosexual is who he is,” Wang said.
The cast, she said, does a great job performing as a believable family.
“Lucas Hedges does not disappoint, and Nicole Kidman plays a powerful mother who loves her son,” Wang said. “The love for each other is what carries these characters through this trial. And it’s heartbreaking to see and hear the conversations they have about their internal struggles.”
Crowe conveys his character’s internal struggles as well, Wang said.“The father’s struggles are very apparent. He is a pastor and his faith is telling him one thing, and his love for his son is telling him something else,” she said. “It comes down to the questions: is he willing to lose everything for his faith? Is his god forcing him to make this decision?”
The film gives the audience an idea of why parents would consider sending their kids to these programs and how damaging they can be, Wang said.
“In his memoir, Conley wants to get the message out that conversion therapy is still going on, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story,” she said. “It’s also about calling for communities to accept their children for who they are. Hopefully this film will raise awareness about this issue and that these programs exist, but also shows there is a path of acceptance and diversity of the human experience.”
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