Celebrity

Taylor Swift's boyfriend's role in 'Boy Erased' is so full on and we don't know how to feel anymore

A side of Joe Alwyn we’ve never seen before.

By Katie Stow

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains graphic discussion of rape.

Hitting the cinemas super soon is the no-doubt HUGE movie, Boy Erased. The film focuses on an all-American family, with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe playing the hella religious parents of Jared — a boy who, throughout the course of the movie, realises he is gay.

His parents' reaction to his coming out is to ship him off to attend a 'conversion therapy program', where he is lectured to essentially 'pray the gay away'. The movie is based off a very real memoir written by Garrard Conley, and it's truly a heartbreaking story.

Get yourself up to speed by watching the full trailer of Boy Erased here:

While the whole film is stuffed to the brim with emotional and terrifying moments, capturing the real struggle of Jared (and so many young men like him) in a devastating way — there was one scene that will truly stick with you.

WARNING: There are spoilers in this next bit, so if you don't want to ruin the movie for yourself, look away now.

In the movie we see a young Jared heading off to college, semi aware of his homosexuality but having never acted on his feelings. He quickly befriends Henry, a fellow college student (played by Joe Alwyn, AKA Taylor Swift's boyfriend), and the two become running buddies and Henry even takes Jared along to one of his local church services.

Their friendship is lovely, and through a few glances you cotton on that Jared has a bit of a thing for Henry, but he's unsure whether Henry is even gay or not — so he doesn't make a move.

However, after one late night playing video games, Henry opts to crash on Jared's absent roommate's bed, leading to a classic teenage rom-com angst-ridden scene where they are both lying on bunk beds, not sleeping and trying to figure out if this is the moment they finally kiss.

Jared calls up to Henry on the top bunk, "Can't sleep?" before Henry jumps down and sits on the edge of Jared's bed. As an audience member, you think they're going to have their orchestra playing, big love story smooching moment — a la Call Me By Your Name.

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But then everything gets a bit fucked up.

Henry places his hand on Jared, and rather than going in for the kiss, he gets both behind and on top of Jared. Henry covers Jared's mouth with his hand while using his other hand to pull down Jared's undies and hold him down as he struggles.

Henry then proceeds to anally rape Jared while Jared is trying to get away and is screaming for Henry to stop.

It's a horrific scene that is filmed in one take, where the camera doesn't move away or change angles. It may only be a couple of minutes, but it feels like a lifetime that we're left staring at this hideous abuse of Jared.

When it ends, Henry just climbs off Jared and sits on the floor next to the bed and bursts into tears. He calls himself disgusting and says that he has problems and there's something wrong with him. He also admits that he has done this before to another boy — making him a serial rapist. In this moment we're highlighted for the first time that Henry clearly supresses his sexual desires for men to such a degree that he doesn't know how to deal with them, other than to deny that he is gay and then attack men that show interest in him.

The fact that this is Jared's first sexual encounter makes this all the more devastating. His first exposure to sex with another man is delivered in an aggressive and abusive manner — and it triggers his coming out, where he has no support from his family who are mad that he is gay and don't even dare ask if he was okay following such a traumatic experience.

Obviously this is a confronting scene to watch in any context, but the element that made us feel even more confused and weirded out is that it's Joe Alwyn playing this complex role.

To be honest, we didn't really know who Joe was before he came on the scene as Taylor Swift's boyfriend — and he's been a pretty private dude since that relationship kicked off anyway. He's a fully-fledged actor, but hasn't had any HUGE blockbuster roles to date, meaning this movie will be many people's first exposure to him, which is a pretty intense introduction.

While we commend Joe for taking on a heavy role in a movie that champions a story so often left silent, we hope that it doesn't scare off both his supporters and Taylor's loyal fan base, because we haven't been able to get Henry's terrifying face out of our minds after watching Boy Erased.

If you or someone you know needs to talk about any of these issues, contact ReachOut, RAINN or Lifeline for support and advice.