Desiree Akhavan's sophomore film proved to be one of the breakout hits at this year's Sundance Film Festival and it is easy to see why it has resonated with audiences and critics. Subtle and deeply moving, The Miseducation of Cameron Post joins the likes of the (crimally-underseen) Princess Cyd, A Fantastic Woman and Love, Simon as recent LGBTQ cinematic success stories.
The film focuses on Cameron, a lesbian teenager who has been shipped away to a gay conversion therapy camp to be 'cured'. There she meets a host of fellow attendees (inmates, perhaps) who are in the midst of their own therapy process to allow them to be 'healed'. Set in the 90s and exploring a contentious subject matter, Akhavan's film never mocks its subject, tastefully approaching both its protagonist's sexuality and Christianity. It proves a far more rewarding watch by remaining grounded in what its characters are experiencing.
Aided by an exemplary performance from Chloë Grace Moretz (who I suspect will feature heavily in the coming award season), The Miseducation of Cameron Post is enhanced greatly by the cast. They bring shades of grey to their parts, with the ensemble being so strong you wish the film lingered on screen for longer. Standouts include Sasha Jane and Forrest Goodluck as the two camp mates who Cameron becomes close to, as well as Emily Skeggs as her roommate. The film's approach is one of compassion - no heroes or villains here. Even Jennifer Ehle’s Dr. Marsh, the most obvious candidate to be the film's antagonist due to her role as the camp's authority figure, is rarely presented as out-and-out bad. It may frustrate some viewers that the film does not come down harder on authority figures, but that is not the story being told here. They are at worst misguided and ineffective, at best friendly individuals who are just as broken as the teens in their care. It is a fascinating dynamic that enriches the film's second half considerably.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post feels small and perfectly formed. Cinematographer Ashley Connor captures the isolated beauty of the film's setting in
As the cinematic season moves away from the summer blockbuster season and into an autumn of festivals and potential award contenders, The Miseducation of Cameron Post feels like a work that has the potential to breakout, thanks to its compassionate approach to a difficult subject matter. The film is all held together by a particularly strong lead performance from the extremely talented Moretz.