Despite the rise of LGBTQ+ films in recent years, films that revolve around young lesbians remain hard one to come by. This is why Desiree Akhavan’s second feature “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” has been one of the films I was most excited to see this year after it premiered at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. It’s a film that perfectly balances comedy and drama; it is funny without being incongruous and is tragic without being exploitative.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”, based on a novel by Emily M. Danforth, takes place in 1993 and tells the story of an orphaned teenage girl Cameron Post, played by Chloe Grace Moretz who gives the best performance of her career. Cameron is a high school athlete who is secretly in a relationship with her bible study classmate Coley. The two enjoy regular teenage lesbian activities like making out, making out while watching lesbian movies, making out when their parents aren’t home, etc. It all goes downhill, however, when they get caught by none other than Cameron’s prom date/boyfriend while making out at the backseat of a car. Cameron is sent to a Christian conversion therapy camp by her conservative guardians to cure her homosexuality, or “same sex attraction” as camp director Dr. Lydia (Jennifer Ehle) says. Lydia runs the camp with her once-gay-but-now-totally-cured-brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.).
Cameron is shy, and is unsure of what to do with herself and the “curing”. She goes from defiance to acceptance, then back to defiance again in circles. She acts as any teenager would when sent away to an institution with no proper guidance. Whilst attending the camp, Cameron is surrounded by other teenagers sent there to pray the gay away. Her roommate Erin is sure that the program is working and can’t wait to be straight – while Cameron’s newfound friends Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck) think it’s all bullshit that they have to pretend through.
The conversion therapy in the film isn’t like what we imagine today. It isn’t about electroshock or physical abuse, but that doesn’t make it less tragic. As Cameron tells a police officer who visits the camp: “What about the emotional abuse? What about teaching people to hate themselves?” The effects of this emotional abuse can be observed in another camper, Mark (Owen Campbell) who despite all his efforts to get “better” (straight) and all his belief in the therapy, is still too feminine for in his father’s eyes. His breakdown during a group session, and what follows after, is heart wrenching. One of the most tragic scenes of the film is found in a sequence where Reverend Rick is confronted by Cameron about how he has no idea what he is doing. He cries and his voice breaks down as he says “I don’t know how to answer to you” and it is heartbreaking to think how much he suffers not only in his pretend heterosexuality but also through teaching teenagers how to pretend like himself.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is funny, tragic, touching and left me sobbing by the end. It is a film that I wish existed when I was growing up as a lesbian in a conservative environment and I’m happy for the future generations of LGBTQ youth who will have not only this, but many more films that they can see themselves in.
For the rest of our Istanbul Film Fest 2018 coverage, click here.