Film review: The Miseducation Of Cameron Post
EVERY gay person's coming out story is different. I was incredibly fortunate – family and friends lavished me with unconditional love after years of silent self-loathing, anguish and denial.
Their support strengthened my belief that my genetic hardwiring doesn't define or diminish me. Love is blissfully blinkered to gender.
The teenage heroine of director Desiree Akhavan's sensitively observed drama faces a far more treacherous journey of self-discovery as she comes to terms with her sexuality.
Based on a novel by Emily M Danforth, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post chronicles the damage wrought by a gay conversion therapy camp through the eyes of one girl, who wages a war of attrition against counsellors and discovers her greatest weapons are her compassion and wit.
The script, co-written by Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele, skips nimbly through an emotional minefield of raging hormones and adolescent angst as tortured teenagers – known as disciples – root out the source of their supposed imperfection.
One girl suggests that her father's love of TV sports might have negatively impacted her femininity at an impressionable age.
It's easy to scoff but the majority of US states have not banned conversion therapy for minors on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Teenager Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz) prepares to attend her high school's homecoming dance with her date Jamie (Dalton Harrod) but she would rather be dancing with female friend Coley (Quinn Shephard).
The two girls are discovered in a passionate embrace by Jamie, which forces Cameron's deeply religious guardian, her aunt Ruth (Kerry Butler), to pursue a radical course of action.
Ruth sends Cameron away to a gay conversion centre called God's Promise, overseen by fearsome therapist Dr Lydia March (Jennifer Ehle), who claims her practices can help teenagers rediscover the path to heterosexuality.
Dr Marsh's brother Rick (John Gallagher Jr), her first success story, is a guitar-strumming counsellor at the centre.
Roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs) introduces Cameron to other residents including sensitive soul Mark (Owen Campbell) and marijuana-smoking misfits Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck), who is pithily described as "the Native American David Bowie".
During group therapy sessions, Dr Marsh encourages the youngsters to confront the reasons for their confusion.
"Maybe you're supposed to feel disgusted with yourself when you're a teenager," counters Jane.
As Cameron's treatment unfolds, she openly questions Dr Marsh's treatment programme.
Anchored by a quietly compelling performance from Moretz, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post tethers sympathy securely to the teenage protagonists.
Acerbic humour is deftly employed to cut through the tension between camp staff and disciples, emboldened by a purse-lipped supporting turn from Ehle.
One character's tragic narrative arc begs comparisons with Dead Poet's Society and is clearly telegraphed – but their suffering is deeply upsetting, even when we are braced for impact.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (15, 91 mins) Drama/Romance. Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Dalton Harrod. Director: Desiree Akhavan
Released: September 7 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)