Young adults forming alliances and fighting formidable foes of evil in an alien environment. It is all part of survival and retaining ones identity while saving the world. This might be the description of the young adult films like DIVERGENT, THE HUNGER GAMES or the recent THE DARKEST MINDS but also for a very real and disturbing film entitled THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST. The quiet Cameron Post has only her self appreciation and wits as weapons against the forces of evil, which here is in the form of misguided Christianity.
Abuse can take many forms, but not as bad as those suffered by the young orphan girl Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz). Caught during her prom night making out with another girl (the prom queen) in the back seat of a car by her date, Cameron Post is sent to be ‘cured’ at a gay conversion therapy camp. In one scene she is seen hiding under a table sneaking a telephone call home, crying her eyes out because she cannot take the abuse any longer.
Abuse is the worst when it is psychological. “Isn’t teaching a person to hate herself for being gay self abuse?” asks Cameron at one point in the film.
Co-written by Cecilia Frugiuele and directed by Desiree Akhavan, adapted from Emily Danforth’s acclaimed 2012 YA novel, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is the survival story of this young, spirited, orphaned, small-town Pennsylvanian, forcefully sent the equivalent of a prison camp with no privileges. The setting is 1993, just after AID’s had taken the world by storm and just before gay rights, same-sex marriage and gay acceptance were the norm. It is indeed sad to be gay during this period.
The film has two standout performances by two young actresses Moretz and Sasha Lane (as Jane Fonda). Why that character is called Jane Fonda is humorously explained in the film. Lane is immediately recognizable from her last role in Andrea Arnold’s 2016 film AMERICAN HONEY where she earned the title role as a spirited teen. Of course, she plays another here, but one is is of such independent spirit that she survives the brainwash and helps Cameron stay glued to her sexual orientation. But it is Moretz from SUPERBAD who steals the show as the vulnerable Cameron who finally sees the way. She delivers a controlled yet powerful performance, often crying intend of yelling, planning instead of physical retaliation.
Director Akhavan moves her film at a leisurely yet gripping pace. She understands the power of the story and the gravity of Cameron’s desperation. She lets her story unfold with all its intensity without resorting to cheap theatrics or dramatic set-pieces except for the one displaying a suicidal’s troubled outburst. This allows the audience to think and feel for the film’s characters.
The villains at the Christian camp are Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her visibly oppressed, “ex-gay” brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.). The two of them are smiling all the time making them really creepy. Dr. Marsh runs the camp with a Nurse Ratchet-like efficiency.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, a hit when premiered at Sundance ends up a powerful told tale of the triumph of the individual spirit over evil.