Desiree Akhaven (director)
07 September 2018 (released)
05 September 2018
Set in the 90’s Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is on a prom date with her boyfriend but ends up in the back of car making love to her friend Coley (Quinn Shephard). Cameron, after some family deliberation, is sent to a Christian conversion therapy centre for teens who are struggling with same sex attraction.
The owners are a sister and her ‘cured’ brother who run the camp on strict disciplinary lines. Their mission, as they see it, is to seek to ‘cure’ their ‘guests’ of their sexuality by psychological probing and manipulation. Every question is barbed and all the answers are questioned. Some of the teens are more susceptible than others, and have either willingly succumbed others have just given in to the pressure but are now self-loathing.
Cameron is self-assured and something of a free spirit who befriends Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck) who have developed their own set of rules and play the system to their advantage. She finds in them kindred spirits whom she can relate to. But Cameron still has feelings for Coley who through a letter from her learns that she holds Cameron responsible for her actions. This has a profound effect on Cameron who begins to have her doubts about her own sexuality.
There’s an offbeat vibe around the film as it has an absorbing blend of menace, sex and levity. The camp leader Dr Lydia Marsh (A fantastic performance by Lydia Ehle) is single-minded and totally committed to her task. She is clearly wrong just in her heart she sincerely cares about the children and believes she is doing the right thing. It’s a credit to the actor and director - and co-writer with Cecilia Fruguiele - Desiree Akhavan that this complicated character doesn’t turn in to a caricature.
Moritz is excellent too as the sharp as scalpel Post who at times appears befuddled by the goings on in the camp – the ‘iceberg’ sessions, the bizarre keep fit regime - and that the therapy isn’t quite working as it should do as Cameron experiences one night.
The fine supporting cast tend to follow certain tropes though are rounded enough not to be just background fodder. And the levity springs from the teenagers, their conversations and actions. But there’s a darker hue too. The therapy sessions where absurd ideas and theories are promulgated are ludicrous but its the therapists who are in control and deadly serious about their work, and eventually go too far with disastrous results.
Although based on a fictional young adult novel by Emily M. Danforth, the gay conversion centres in the US are real and apparently spreading, which is troubling. The Miseducation of Cameron Post doesn’t shy away from any issues, however difficult. It would have been very easy for the writers to dump all over the Christian beliefs of some the characters presented here; There would certainly be some justification. However they treat them with a bit more respect, and examine their motivations while at the same time, subtly ridiculing and undermining the whole premise of the gay conversion centres.