Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is part coming-of-age tale, part survival story.
Set in the early ’90s, Cameron Post (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) is a teenage lesbian in a secret relationship with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard). When the pair are caught making out in the back seat of a car on prom night, Cameron is sent off to a Christian gay conversion therapy centre called God’s Promise.
The centre is run by the strict and severe Dr Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who was once “cured” of so-called SSA (same-sex attraction) himself. The thing that makes these characters so interesting is that they’re genuinely well-intentioned, despite being so misguided and ultimately causing so much harm.
Ehle, in particular, plays this character well, managing to play detestable while also bringing something human to the character. She’s likened in the film to a Disney villain, “only this one won’t let you jerk off”.
The kids are the stars of this film though. At God’s Promise, Cameron meets amputee stoner Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and her friend, the Lakota Two-Spirit, Adam (Forrest Goodluck). Eventually, Cameron falls in with the pair, and the trio develop a friendship.
Director Desiree Akhavan doesn’t try to tackle too much in this poised, well-paced film. While flashbacks give us glimpses into Cameron’s past and her relationship with Coley, the story is very much rooted in the present. Akhavan hones in on the characters and puts a lot of faith in her actors. The film could succeed or fail with Moretz’s performance and she, along with her co-stars, delivers an understated yet assured performance in arguably her most important role to date.
Based on Emily M. Danforth’s novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is as heartbreaking as it is important. Akhavan has crafted a calm and measured film that tackles an intense subject without judgment. There are moments of humour and moments of despair which carry this captivating film to a conclusion that is equally as hopeful as it is distressing.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) is one of two 2018 movies about teenagers forced to undergo LGBT conversion therapy. The other is Boy Erased (2018).