The Miseducation of Cameron Post, 2018.
Directed by Desiree Akhavan
Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr., and Forrest Goodluck.
Teenager Cameron is sent away to a “de-programming” centre when her relationship with another girl is discovered. But instead of helping her follow a more conventional lifestyle, it makes her all the more determined to be true to herself. And escape.
We like to think we’ve come a long way when it comes to sexuality. But director Desiree Akhavan questions that with The Miseducation of Cameron Post, taking us back twenty years to a “de-programming” establishment. The sort of place that, by all accounts, still exists today.
Chloe Grace Moretz is the Cameron of the title. After her parents die in a car crash, she’s cared for by her aunt, who makes sure she attends Sunday School every week and is outraged when she discovers Cameron is having a sexual relationship with another girl. She’s sent away to God’s Promise, a community which aims to “cure” its inmates of their “unnatural” feelings towards the same sex and put them back on the straight and narrow. They know it works: one of its teachers is their biggest and best success story.
It’s a film that falls into two distinct halves. The first is infused with a refreshing humour, nothing overstated but with a gentle, sometimes ironic tone that’s in keeping with the film’s honesty about its subject matter. Everybody sent to God’s Promise feels awkward about being there: they’re confused and yearn for the opportunity to simply be themselves. But they’re bombarded at every turn by indoctrination designed to force them into being somebody else, somebody they’re not. Witness the exercise video they’re encouraged to use. Blessercise, with its legwarmers and leotards, is straight out of the 70s and as cheesily wholesome as something straight out of The Waltons.
The tone shifts halfway through, in keeping with the underlying serious nature of the story. The de-programming becomes more intense and the sense of the teachers trying to instil fear in the young people strengthens. What they don’t seem to realise is that alienating them to that extent will make them gravitate even more towards their true selves. It’s self-defeating and all the more uncomfortable by the smugness displayed by the staff, especially Jennifer Ehle, whose sinister, insincere smile is permanently fixed to her face.
Honesty runs throughout the film, both as something that the young people at God’s Promise aspire to and in its depiction of same sex relationships. It’s one of its most endearing aspects. The other is the performance from Moretz, who has clearly left Kick-Ass well behind her. This shows her rapidly growing maturity and, in hindsight, should prove to be the moment when she transitioned from teen fodder to more adult roles. Sasha Lane, who made such a great debut in American Honey, puts in a vigorous performance as one of the friends she makes in the establishment and there’s a nicely observed turn from John Gallagher Jr. as the aforementioned success story.
Akhavan shows she’s more than just a safe pair of hands when it comes to juggling the sensitivities of serious issues with humour and tolerance. It’s an important film, one that will speak to people of all ages who’ve had to fight convention to be true to themselves. And it makes us question if we are actually as tolerant as we’d like to think. Only we know the answer to that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post is set for a UK release August 31st.
Freda Cooper. Follow me on Twitter.