“Boy Erased” / Focus Features

by Zach Herrmann

Jared (Lucas Hedges) belongs to a loving middle-class Arkansas family, with his mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman) and Baptist minister father, Marshall (Russell Crowe). Jared gets good grades, plays basketball, and is in a steady—but chaste—relationship with a girl from school. Everything in his life is going according to plan, until a college friend outs Jared as gay.

Surprised, but attempting to be supportive in their own way, Jared’s parents send him to Refuge, a church-supported program predicated on the notion that homosexuality is an affliction, curable through confession, and the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Overseen by Victor Sykes (played by the film’s director Joel Edgerton, in a superbly cagey performance), the program’s bullying and bigotry fosters an environment that’s anything but a refuge.

BOY ERASED, which is based on Garrard Conley’s eponymous memoir, doesn’t take potshots at religious conservatives. Bolstered by uniformly superlative performances—including memorable supporting turns from Flea and Xavier Dolan—the film considers what it means to reconcile one’s upbringing with one’s own self-respect and moral truths.

Now Playing at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville.