Have you ever watched a movie that made you so angry and sad because you know that everything in its story has probably actually happened somewhere, someway, to someone? That's how we felt watching The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018). This film is directed by Desiree Akhavan. She also helped write the screenplay along with Cecilia Frugiuele, and it is based on the novel of the same name by Emily M. Danforth. The story takes place in 1993 and is about a teenager named Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) who, after being caught having sexual relations with another girl in the backseat of a car during their prom, is sent to a Christian conversion therapy facility called God's Promise. While there, she and several other kids who are also gay are taught that their evil sin of "S.S.A," or same-sex attraction, can be prayed away through the power and strength of Christ, re-education through his teachings, and getting to the bottom to what past experiences they may have had that made them gay in the first place.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) is infuriating to watch, but not because it has a bad message or because its message is delivered in a weak way. In fact, its message is an important one, and it is delivered very well. By nature, this film is designed to upset the viewer and make them see how spectacularly foolish and evil the idea of "conversion therapy" really is. It is incensing to watch Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), teacher Bethany (Marin Ireland), and Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) teach the kids in their group that there is something inherently wrong with them when there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. These adults, some of whom have been "cured" of their S.S.A. preach that they are doing what is in the best interest of each of their disciples. Watching these people flounder as they propagate scripture without knowing what the hell they are doing made us uncomfortably squirm in our seats as we audibly muttered angry words right alongside the kids. We wound up truly hating the adult figures in this film and came to realize very quickly that they were the ones with the problem, not the youngsters. This movie seems to be a fairly honest representation of where our society was at in 1993 and is probably an all too realistic depiction of how some parts of our country continue to treat children and teenagers even to this very day. In fact, we fear The Miseducation of Cameron Post may even be a far-too-tame depiction of life inside a conversion therapy center, considering some of the horror stories we have heard from people who have attended these facilities.
This story is brought to life by the likes of Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck, who each give excellent, understated performances as Cameron, Jane, and Adam. Cameron quickly takes to these other two "inmates" who have a penchant for sniffing out the same B.S. she does. They bond and become friends despite their misery, leaning on each other for the support they are not actually getting from the adults who are supposed to do what's best for them. Their interactions provide some much needed dark humor to an otherwise painful story. Though these performances are wonderful displays of what talented individuals the above actors are, it is Owen Campbell as Mark who gets the single best moment in the film as he delivers a heartbreaking, impassioned speech that leads to some drastic, gut-wrenching consequences.
At its core, The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) is a simple slice-of-life film that shows the day-to-day happenings of the members of this conversion therapy center. It shows the mundanities that happen there, but it also shows the deep-seeded torment and anguishes these kids go through as they are continually bullied into hating themselves. They are taught what they want and who they are is wrong, immoral, sinful, and disgusting. Some directors would be heavy-handed with a subject matter like this, but Desiree Akhavan never oversteps as a director and lets the audience draw their own thoughts and conclusions from it with minimal guidance. Akhavan's touch with the camera is delicate and intimate. She enables the audience to see who these characters really are, and we learn their truths without having our hands held every step of the way.
In the end, The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) is a compelling film with a few moments of emotional oomph, though its over-simplistic, fly-on-the-wall nature left us wanting a little bit more overall. Still, this is an indie definitely worth checking out.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
The Miseducation of Cameron Post • Run time 1:31 • Not Rated