A teenager is forced to attend gay-conversion therapy
Based on the young-adult novel by Emily Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of teenager, Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is forced to attend a Christian gay-conversion camp.
It's 1993 and Cameron is sent to the camp, called God's Promise, following her prom night where she is discovered in the backseat of a car with another girl. Upon arrival at the camp, Cameron meets the centre's leaders: director Dr Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle), and her brother, Rick (John Gallagher Jr), a reverend who claims that he has successfully rejected same sex attraction thanks to his sister's treatments.
Cameron's not falling for it, unlike many of her peers who try to work with Lydia and Rick. They do this by talking about their urges at group sessions, where Lydia uses religion coupled with psycho-babble to justify renunciation of their sexuality. Cameron tries to fit in and attempts to tell Lydia what she wants to hear. But Cameron's story is all over the place (mainly because she's polled other camp attendees and pinched what she thinks are acceptable answers). She's soon labelled a resister by the other teenagers, most of whom just want to do their time - no matter what they have to say or do to get out.
It's not long before Cameron makes friends with the most rebellious members of the camp, Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck). The three of them band together, taking hikes, smoking pot and (amongst themselves, anyway) calling out the bullshit that's going on at God's Promise. But the camp's practices are ever dangerous and a tragic incident heightens the trio's resolve that God's Promise is not good for them - or anyone.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post was directed by Desiree Akhavan. The film is careful and considered, and what's most interesting is that it doesn't paint a picture of God's Promise that's overtly hellish. Instead, the film is much more subtle, using deadpan humour and a simple observational style to show life in the camp. Indeed, in a scene when an outside auditor is looking into the centre's practices, Cam tells the investigator, 'they don't beat us or anything.' In fact, Rick is almost (and it's a big 'almost') a likeable character, sincerely believing in his work and treating the teenagers with respect.
But Lydia is colder, whether because of religious fervour or something else, and you see that she's the brains behind the whole thing. Her methods are egregious and her results highly questionable, judging by repressed Rick and the whole dormitory full of teenagers who are taught that their sexuality is wrong and their own making.
Whilst the film is enlightening, the narrative does suffer from sparseness. The characters, even Cameron, are a bit underdone, Cameron's an orphan, gay and relatively bright, but we don't get much further. The same goes for the storyline - it's very gradual, just letting events slowly unfurl.
But the film gets its message across. And being set in the not-long-ago '90s reminds us that the dangerous practice of gay-conversion therapy wasn't and isn't confined to the dark ages - as it surely should be.