THREE AND A HALF STARS Caught snogging her girlfriend, Cameron is sent for conversion by Christians.
Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle
One minute Cameron is having a post-Prom snog with her girlfriend then before you can say ‘pray the gay away’, she’s in a corrective camp being ‘converted’ by Christian siblings working for Jesus. THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST is the kind of indie film you rarely see these days: modestly unassuming yet with a steely core that takes no prisoners, no doubt why it won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance.
While Cameron (a nuanced turn by Chloë Grace Moretz) is the centre around which events rotate, it’s the minor stories that give the film depth and compassion. Paraphrasing one character, the kids are there because they’re too close to their mother, or not close enough, too interested in sport, or not interested enough. In other words, there's no winning. As Cameron remarks heatedly after a brutal reality check, ‘You’re just making this up as you go along’.
Her experiences and those of her fellow inmates are fleshed out to create fully realised characters, all of whom are victimised by their ‘protectors’ one way or another. As Cameron navigates her way around the camp, negotiating with other teenagers-of-faith and the hardline psychologist in charge (a repellant Jennifer Ehle), she finds solace in company more aligned to her way of thinking. Together they form a sympathetic friendship, build a wall behind which to stay safe, and bide their time. The time comes when tragedy strikes the camp and its conveners have no idea how to react.
This is the follow up to Desiree Akhavan’s acclaimed APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR about a hip, bisexual, Persian New Yorker whose failure to assume a clichéd identity left her lost and lonely. Society’s views of sexuality is an important theme for her, as, I suspect, is the hostility directed at teenagers in general. And while Akhavan may appear to land softly on this topic - THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST is deceptively light about the shocking mistreatment metered out to its characters - by creating a space in which teenagers get to be real teenagers, she does them a much greater service. Despite the religious backbone, this is not a preachy film and is stronger for it. There’s a wonderful moment when the kids quietly articulate who they are and what they truly feel, and without melodrama or histrionics, the film is able to realise its damning indictment.