While homosexuality continues to find growing equality and acceptance in western cultures, there remains fundamentalists and conservatives who struggle to keep pace with societal progress. For this reason, amongst others, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a timely and necessary coming-of-age film.
Set in 1993, although still relevant today, teenager Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught making out with another girl at her high school dance. She’s promptly sent to God’s Promise, an isolated conversion camp for homosexual teens. The camp is run by the Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr), a former gay man who was ‘cured’ by God, and his sister, psychologist Dr Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle).
Directed by Desiree Akhavan, who co-wrote it with Cecilia Frugiuele, the film is based on the 2012 novel by Emily M Danforth. It focusses more on the feelings and budding friendships of the characters than the conversion process, although there is plenty of drama and some chuckles around the discussion groups, prayers and other requirements put upon the teenagers.
The charges are physically looked after, but the psychological abuse they are put through is handled sensitively by Akhavan. Her primarily-young cast handle the powerful script masterfully, providing occasional moments of comedy, with complex and often difficult emotions. While some characters find confirmation and self-worth in the ridiculousness of the conversion therapy, others struggle, with tragic consequences, to be the kind of ‘normal’ they have been forced to believe in.
The uncredited country location is a stunning backdrop that encapsulates the struggles of the teenagers undergoing conversion therapy: the isolation, the beauty of new friendships, the peace found in finally belonging…
Winner of the 2018 US Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a wonderfully heartfelt film that avoids clichéd characters by diving into the heart of being true to oneself.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
The Miseducation of Cameron Post opens in selected cinemas from 6 September.