There are so many good things to say about The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the second feature film from director Desiree Akhavan which played in competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic category.
Adapted from Emily Danforth’s acclaimed teen novel, Miseducation is a coming-of-age story of a young teen sent to a religious camp to pray the gay away. Led by Chloë Grace Moretz, the entire cast brings life to these characters, mixing heart and humor for moving performances. What’s more, one of the most inspiring parts of this production, besides Moretz’s female-empowering performance, is the below-the-line hiring, as Akhavan herself, along with the film’s cinematographer, editor, co-writer, and music supervisors, are an all female crew.
Cameron Post (Moretz) sits in bible study group, silently observing the environment around her. Having grown up in a Christian household, it’s been made clear since day one that there is a very clear right way and wrong way to live in the eyes of the Lord, which bodes unwell for Cameron being that she likes girls. When she is caught engaging in sexual activity with her secret girlfriend on Prom night, her life gets instantly turned upside down. Cameron is immediately sent to God’s Promise, a gay conversion therapy school run by Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) who claim to cure “SSA,” or “Same Sex Attraction” through Christian teaching.
Luckily, like Cameron, not all of the students – or disciples, as the school calls them – are on the same page with the school’s mission. Cameron quickly finds kinship in rebellious classmates Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), who smoke poorly-grown pot and eye-roll their way through the school’s constant and hokey activities, like worksheets and collage art therapy intended to trace back what events in the students’ lives “caused them to be gay.” It’s evident that no one at God’s Promise wants to be at God’s Promise, but Cameron and her new friends rely on each other to get through this process as relatively unscathed as possible.
‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ serves as a beacon of light for anyone struggling with aspects of their lives and proves that being true to yourself is the only way to live.
Chloë Grace Moretz is subtle yet astounding in the title role. The authenticity she delivers as a teen struggling with her sexual identity proves she was absolutely the perfect casting choice, and she doesn’t shy away from the movie’s more demanding scenes of physicality with other women. Her vulnerability in this role makes it easy for audiences to see just how awful this experience is for those who are forced to partake in it (fortunately, as was reported at the post-screening Q&A, more and more states are beginning to outlaw conversion therapy in growing numbers). John Gallagher Jr. as the conflicted Rick especially shines (“Rick eating cereal” was the movie’s scene-stealing moment) and Jennifer Ehle as the domineering school leader gives another brilliant performance.
Since the release of her debut feature, Appropriate Behavior, director Desiree Akhavan has shown that the ambitions of her artistry have grown in the last four years. Back then, it seemed like a plausible assumption that she would continue to work in niche hipster fare and follow in the footsteps of Lena Dunham’s style of trendy filmmaking. But with this film, she proves that she has much bigger aspirations and skills than that, creating a film that is appealing to everyone and specifically meaningful to the young LGBTQ community. The Miseducation of Cameron Post serves as a beacon of light for anyone struggling with aspects of their lives and proves that being true to yourself is the only way to live.
90 min. ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is not yet rated.