THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST Exposes sham of conversion therapy, joy of self-love
In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Desiree Akhavan adapts the essence of Emily M. Danforth’s popular young adult novel into a quietly soaring work of vindication, the value of self-love and teen resilience in the face of grown-up arrogance and ignorance.
Prom night spells trouble for Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz). She is a teen from a conservative Christian household who’s been exploring her sexuality with Coley (Quinn Shephard), a girl she met in Bible Study. The pair puts up with the pretense of dating guys. So as not to freak out the family but hormones get the better of them and they make off for the backseat of a car. Inevitably, the night ends with them getting caught and Cameron’s distraught aunt sees no recourse. But to ship her off to a conversion therapy centre to rid her of the ‘demons’ of same sex attraction.
So begins Cameron Post’s journey to God’s Promise, a place built for healing and intent on reforming the teenage disciples into ‘born again’ straight versions of themselves. That is the way God had presumably always intended them to be. The seemingly hospitable look of the woodland retreat notwithstanding. Cameron soon discovers the prison-like qualities of the environment, one in which self-expression is stifled.
Luggage is scanned for contraband, decorating and mailing privileges have to be earned and the therapy sessions have the ring of indoctrination as they seek to rewire a person’s identity.
Alternately shamed by program director Lydia (a Nurse-Ratched-like Jennifer Ehle) and blamed by Coley
Who accuses Cameron of having taken advantage of their friendship and trying to corrupt her, attempts at brainwashing Cameron fail to take hold even on days. When she tries to trick herself into going along with the various sessions and group activities. It helps that, from the start, Cameron seems comfortable in her skin and approaches her time at God’s Promise with the same wry (and healthy). That scepticism as the dissident, nonconformist camp teens she befriends (Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck in spirited supporting turns).
The Miseducation of Cameron Post has all the elements one would expect from a typical coming-of-age story and a conversion drama and yet. Even though the film doesn’t shy away from showing the danger of internalized self-hatred. Akhavan and her capable cast will catch viewers off guard with an amicable sense of humor. That’s used both as a means of resistance and a tool for skewering the process to which the teens are subjected.
Moretz is arguably better than she’s ever been and Akhavan takes full advantage of close-ups to show the subtle shades of disbelief wash over the face of a girl who’s asked to be untrue to herself.
With a sympathetic mix of teen emotionality and steely resolve. Moretz plays Cameron as a young woman emboldened with a critical outlook on the world. She is a character whose questions mainly rise from the counterproductive events. That befall her instead of stemming from her own insecurities. Refreshingly, this coming-of-age story never really traces a journey of self-discovery but rather marks a burgeoning awareness of self-affirmation.
To some viewers The Miseducation of Cameron Post might feel somewhat subdued. But Akhavan’s adaptation is shot through with authenticity and earnestness. That as a love letter to the justifiable need of teen defiance and the force thereof. The fact that audiences are encouraged to question the dubious and manipulative nature. That of conversion therapy without the film having to resort to the same blunt judgmentalism the practice. Itself is based on is a testament to the work’s subtlety.
While The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an important LGBT film
It also feels like a landmark addition to the coming-of-age canon. At one point Cameron, beginning to wonder if Lydia and Rick might have a point, admits to Jane, “I’m tired of feeling disgusted with myself.” Jane bites back, “Maybe you’re supposed to feel disgusted when you’re a teenager.” That’s the deep cut at the heart of Akhavan’s film – being young and in pain shouldn’t automatically be accepted as part of growing up. Akhavan emphatically rejects this fallacy, instead showing that strength comes from admitting who you are, and figuring out how to move forward from there.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post isn’t the sweet, cockles-warming queer female love story the film industry needs. But it’s something just as useful. Desiree Akhavan has crafted a story about the bulldog spirit of LGBTQ+ people in the face of homophobia. That about finding solace in each other, about trying not to crack, about believing things can get better. What Akhavan is saying is that Cameron Post didn’t give up and neither should anyone else. We need more films like this.
Directed By: Desiree Akhavan
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Steven Hauck, Quinn Shephard
Written By: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
In Theaters: Aug 3, 2018 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Dec 4, 2018
Runtime: 90 minutes
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
Cameron – the kind of cool kid who’d use the word “cool” with caution – fits Moretz like a glove.
It’s all done beautifully. Witty and funny too, but at a consistent, compassionate pace throughout. A lovely sigh of a movie.
The climax, when it comes, is devastating, its effect amplified by the understatedness of everything that surrounds it….Akhavan may have a light touch but it packs a punch.
The sort of film that stays with you. Powerful in its restraint, and unfailingly full of light.