UK Release Date: 7th September 2018
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Writer: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr, Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell
Synopsis: When she is caught making out with her girlfriend after a homecoming dance, a girl is sent to a conversion therapy camp by her devoutly religious guardian.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post will inevitably be an underseen movie. With a limited release in UK cinemas, it’s a shame that this daring film from writer-director Desiree Akhavan, eking out great work from a cast of young stars, will not get the platform it deserves to show what it has to offer – an affecting, if slightly numb, story about the prevalence of gay conversion therapy in rural America.
Chloë Grace Moretz plays Cameron Post, a high school girl who is caught making out with her girlfriend, and as a result is sent to a Christian gay conversion therapy by her aunt who looks after her. There isn’t so much of a plot that follows as there is a walking tour of life in this therapy camp. Friends are made and teachers are looked at with suspicion and fear. All in all, this is coming of age movie basics, but surrounded by a fascinating milieu of menacing, ‘service with a smile’ Christian fundamentalism.
Indeed, it is this backdrop – the subtle ways conversation are held, the less overt usage of religion than you’d expect in a movie about fundamentalist values – that really shines. The performances from the teachers, played by John Gallagher Jr and Jennifer Ehle, are excellent, really underpinning their smiles with a malice that drips from their characters and from the careful use of words in the script.
It’s a shame though that the film’s best assets – bubbling under the surface performances and a script that needles with the kindly devastation of every abominable thing a teacher says to a student – are also its weakness. Moretz is a wonderful actress, but she’s too assured as Cameron. She never comes across as a teenager struggling in her environment, but more like herself – a young, confident woman in her twenties. Granted, it’s interesting to see a story about teenage sexuality without the main character being confused, but as a vessel for the audience Cameron is not engaging enough. She’s aware that everything in her environment is bullshit, and therefore so are you. The threat is directed towards other characters who aren’t as well-developed and the movie loses some of its impact that way.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post also never seeks out drama. It’s admirable in a way, with the slice of life feeling enhancing the reality, but it means that large sequences feel flat. It is caught between a desire for realism and desire for high drama, unfortunately never settling on a tone, likely because Cameron is so assured in this world that it was difficult to hook on to any one moment.
There are a few stand-out sequences that suggest the punch Akhavan’s movie could have had. A tense dialogue scene between Moretz and Gallagher Jr after an onsite tragedy is a masterful insight into what this movie could have achieved. Unfortunately, however, The Miseducation of Cameron Post plays its cards a tad too close to its chest.
Pop or Poop?
There’s all of the potential in the world lurking within The Miseducation of Cameron Post and that potential bubbles to the surface when the movie depicts the evil concealed behind the sweet smiles of the conversion therapy camp staff. Chloë Grace Moretz delivers one of her best performances in the title role, but the character doesn’t quite seem to be the best way into the narrative, leaving the whole thing feeling a little inert and lacking in the vicious punch it could have packed.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.