Hollywood, make more movies like this.
Growing up isn’t easy.
There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of coming-of-age films that have reminded us of this very fact. The teenage years a full of challenges, bullies, confusion and defeat for just about any given high-schooler.
You know what makes that whole process just a *little* bit more difficult, though? Having homophobic guardians who, upon learning that their adopted teenage daughter Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) has been having sex with her close female friend Coley (Quinn Shepard), send you off to gay conversion therapy camp called God’s Promise.
That’s the story that director Desiree Akhavan (the actress who plays Sara in Creep 2, believe it or not) is telling in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which is a movie I think I might just be in love with.
Upon arriving at God’s Promise, Cameron finds something of a mixed bag.
There’s a group of pupils who all, more or less, want to be here and believe in the program. They’ve been told that their feelings of same-sex attraction are a form of sin that, with the right help, they’ll be able to overcome.
Part of that might be because of their personal beliefs, but part of this is also due to the counselors of the camp — Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and his sister Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) — and their strict rules.
On the other hand, there are a small number of students who don’t want to be here. The ones who, like Cameron, were forced to attend because their parents decided to get into politics and needed to have their family presented in a way that represents a good Christian household (have you found the relevance of The Miseducation of Cameron Post yet?)
These individuals namely include Jane (Sasha Lane of American Honey) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck of The Revenant). Cameron immediately takes a liking to them as the three will often sneak out into the woods to get high and ignore their afternoon lessons.
And yet, there is only so much they can do when trying to ignore this whole place. While God’s Promise is putting these kids through various kinds of emotional abuse, all in the name of the Lord, they still force their participants to look into their past and examine everything that’s lead up to this. Maybe they don’t agree with the conclusion that the camp comes to, but the leaders won’t hesitate to point out the student’s hurt or failures. That can cut pretty deep, no matter who you are.
Which is what I love about The Miseducation of Cameron Post, because this isn’t just another ‘stick it to the man’ kind of movie.
We’ve seen that done before. Truth be told, if The Miseducation of Cameron Post wanted to be that kind of movie, it probably still would have worked because the audience who goes to see this will all believe in that message.
What Desiree Akhavan chooses to do here, instead, is take it the next step farther. There are plenty of scenes that point out all the wrong-doings of a place like God’s Promise, sure, but there are also plenty of scenes that come from a place of understanding and try to deal with heavy questions that God’s Promise indirectly raises.
These questions are ones that many people, regardless of their sexual orientation, ask themselves every day; such as, how do you “have” faith? Is there even a point in having faith when everyone who shares the same beliefs thinks your a terrible person and wants to change you? Is taking your faith away from the church a bad thing?
They’re big questions and, of course, there aren’t any clear answers to any of them, but The Miseducation of Cameron Post doesn’t pretend to have any of them, either. All moments of “clarity” come in the form of subtle moments through the various characters.
Chloe Grace Moretz, obviously deserves all kinds of credit for her role here, as I think it might be the best performance she’s given to date. It’s a bit early to be cheering for awards consideration, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post isn’t exactly a high-profile movie at the moment, but I would give her a nomination if I was in charge of the Oscars.
The supporting characters really blew me away here too. Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck are both incredible here, as they are both able to convey such complicated levels of hurt and betrayal in the ways they interact with one another.
John Gallagher Jr. was another surprise. Along with the fact that he makes the perfect Christian counselor who’s trying so hard to relate to teenagers even though he really doesn’t know how to (a personality that everyone who grew up in the church has had to face at one time or another), he’s also given deeper layers revolving around his character’s history in the camp and the things he may or may not have had to repress. The way his whole storyline played out, eventually leading to a couple hard-hitting scenes at the very end of the movie, was nothing short of brilliant.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post snuck up on and I want more people to see it. There are a couple of moments when things inside of God’s promise might be a little too over-the-top, for lack of a better phrase, mainly around Jennifer Ehle’s character, but the understanding that Desiree Akhavan has for these characters and this atmosphere is a remarkably profound one.
Love, Simon. was great because it let teenagers who might be struggling to come out know that they aren’t the only ones who have had these feelings and it’s totally normal. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is great because it takes that idea and furthers it, letting teenagers know that it’s totally normal to have these thoughts even though there are going to people who are afraid of them and will try to change you.
Yet, it’s not a hopeless film that depicts the world as this cruel, awful place. There’s hope in this move, scattered throughout various scenes (the joy in Chloe Grace Moretz’s face when singing 4 Non Blondes made me tear up) and especially the ending. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is something really special that Hollywood should be taking inspiration from and more people should be seeking out.
Watch the trailer for The Miseducation of Cameron Post here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!
'The Miseducation of Cameron Post' review: An absolute must-see9