Matthew Wayne “Matt” Shepard was an American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie on the night of Oct. 6, 1998.

And now, in Joel Edgerton’s ” Boy Erased,” a film based on a memoir by Garrard Conley, we learn that the brutal slaughter of the souls and hearts of our gay children continues.

Matthew was whipped with a pistol, but as we’re shown here in a graphic scene, those who refuse to bend are beaten with a hard copy of the Holy Bible.

Each member of the subject’s family, including an hysterical baby sister, are forced to administer the punishment. Medieval? No, sir. It goes on today in many states.

We meet the Eamons: Jared, (Lucas Hedges) a troubled teen; father Marshall (Russell Crowe), who is a lay minister and owner of a Ford dealership and mother Nancy (a very good Nicole Kidman) a Christian housewife.

Trouble begins when, in a scene after an incident at Jared’s college, the ‘problem’ of his sexuality is brought to the fore.


When Jared, full of confusion and fear, confesses to his parents that he “thinks about men,” Marshall summons a couple of fellow pastors to the house for a “laying on of the hands.” It’s a chilling scene.

When the conservative Ford dealership/minister of the Gospel father and his obedient wife catch their breaths, they pack up Jared’s belongings and enlist him in a gay conversion center called “Love in Action,” a kind of cleanse your mind and soul laundry, hoping that he will come out all clean, pressed, starched and “straight.”

The time spent in “God’s concentration camp” at Love in Action is painful and uncomfortable to watch. But stay with it, it’s good for you to see.

For a few moments we see the despair and confusion in Jared’s eyes and hold out hope that he will bust one of the stained glass windows and run for his life. But it’s clear that Jared loves his parents, and hopes all of this will somehow just go away like a bad dream from which he will awaken.

Then when something deep inside his heart breaks free, he calls his mother and tells her to come get him. “Mom, I’m in trouble.”

To his credit, director Edgerton never portrays the parents as cardboard villains, but simple Christians trying to grapple with the truth.


The Eamons are in fact just as confused as their son when they see this “thing” come into their home, invading their lives like a flu.

I was happy to see Kidman excelling here in a fine performance. When she confronts her “what have I done” moment, she rushes to rescue her son from the program. In a rage, she pounds on the glass door until it seems it will break. When they let her in, she pulls her son to her like a mother lion and snarls, “I love my son, I love my God … but shame on you,” she shouts at the cleansers, “shame on all of you.”

Kidman’s tears at that moment were the realest she’s ever shed. It’s a bravado moment.

Hedges, a passable actor, did his best, but failed to move me as Jared. He seems to be the same boy he was in “Three Billboards” and “Lady Bird.”

Director Edgerton, playing Victor Sykes the camp program director, seemed to have too much to do to be convincing. The real Sykes story is a movie for another day. You can Google this monster.

Crowe, a brilliant actor, is miscast here. That old Crowe spark failed to ignite. In fairness, this is a role better suited to Steve Carell.

“Boy Erased,” not a terribly good movie, but has value in that it brings to the surface the ignorance and evil in the idea of sexual conversion.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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