Miseducation of Cameron Post, The (2018)

Review #1,621

Director:  Desiree Akhavan
Cast:  ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Sasha Lane
Plot:  In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.

Genre:  Drama 
Awards:  Won Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic (Sundance)
Runtime:  91 mins
Rating:  R21 (passed clean) for homosexual content
International Sales:  Elle Driver

“I don't think of myself as a homosexual.  I really don't think of myself as anything.”

Winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Desiree Akhavan's sophomore feature is an assured follow-up to Appropriate Behaviour (2014), which also premiered at the same festival.  Both films center on the theme of youth and identity—whilst in Appropriate Behaviour her main character struggles to reconcile the expectations of being a Persian daughter with living in liberal America as a bisexual, the teenagers in The Miseducation of Cameron Post face family brickbats for being queer.  

With young star Chloe Grace Moretz headlining the film as the titular character, there is screen presence to go with the lovingly-penned material, itself an adaptation of Emily Danforth's novel by Akhavan’s producer, Cecilia Frugiuele.  Sasha Lane, who wowed critics with her bold and energetic lead performance (her first acting role) in Andrea Arnold’s overdrawn Americana road movie, American Honey (2016), gets a much more subdued part as Jane Fonda, an acquaintance of Cameron Post.  In an alternate reality, Cameron and Jane might have been lovers, or essentially with any other girl whom they are acquainted with in the gay conversion therapy center they are forced to reside in.  

The film largely focuses on the people in the center—the so-called patients and the so-called therapists.  I say that because the therapists seem pretentious or condescending after a while, while the teens try their best to receive their prescribed (re)education with minimal fuss.  Cameron’s story, of course, takes precedence.  She is like a tiny planet with many moons, all wanting to get away from the shining star, which is the hope their families or guardians have for them—to be straight men and women.  I suspect the larger society would have been far more accommodating to their struggles than their loved ones.  

In any case, society is not part of the equation in Miseducation, which is ultimately an intimate and earnest drama about a group of young folks coming to terms with their own sexual identity.  Although set in the early 1990s, a period in time that had seen far less empathy toward the LGBT community than it is today, Akhavan’s work remains a pleasant reminder that we must always continue to support and protect the vulnerable, and give the gift of personal choice and individual agency.

Verdict:  Chloe Grace Moretz gives a delightful performance in this earnest sophomore film by Desiree Akhavan centering on youths struggling with their sexual identities.




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