The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan, 2018)

“There’s no such thing as homosexuality, just the struggle with sin”

I immediately thought of the film But I’m a Cheerleader, the 1999 camp comedy directed by Jamie Babbit, as the film progressed and the storyline unfolded in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Whilst exploring the same idea of sexual conversion camps in America, both main characters written as young high school girls and stories woven with religious tones, The Miseducation of Cameron Post hit me much, much harder on an emotional level. Less kitsch, more organic, and a lot more stress placed on the impression and manipulation these kids are forced into. Based on the novel of the same title and directed by The Bisexuals own Desiree Akhavan, this Sundance awarded film is a must-see.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Carrie) performs winsomely as the quiet orphan Cameron, neither expressive nor passive in her sexuality yet knowing it’s something not to be communicated to her evangelion guardians. Set in 1993, Cameron is discovered together with her classmate Coley (Quinn Shepherd, Midnight Sun) and forced into the heavily religious camp ‘God’s Promise’ –  a conversion therapy centre with an anti-homosexual ideology, she learns about the other members’ (or ‘disciples’ as the camp guardians name them) stories. The plethora of characters range from the Native American ‘two-spirit’ Adam (Forrest Goodluck, The Revenant) and the rebellious Jane (Sasha Lane, American Honey) who’s prosthetic leg hides her stash of weed. Owen Campbell, from the youthful and eerie Super Dark Times that I have previously reviewed, impressed me once again as Mark; deemed ‘too feminine’ by his own father, he is sentenced away to the same camp as Cameron and subjected to odd conversion therapies in order to correct him.

These characters are placed somewhere incredibly religious, and the centre’s radical beliefs within the narrative are used to manipulate innocent children into a certain mindset. However, the main theme of the film overall expresses more of an impactful comment on the action of adults against kids and teenagers and how they mentally (and physically) subjugate them into their own specific beliefs. Cameron is the beacon of this idea, stating ‘I don’t think of myself as a homosexual. I don’t think of myself as anything’. Moretzs character was given a label by adults, one they believed to be wrong, taking it upon themselves to ‘fix’ her despite Cameron herself not seeing  the fault in herself. Her story and her character’s interactions with the other kids, all from different backgrounds and cultures, implies that they are made to feel out of place in a world where they were already comfortable. The final scene, quiet and quite the anti-climax, solidifies this even more – the problem is not in person but in the way they’re made to feel.

This theme becomes more impactful in The Miseducation of Cameron Post than in other similar stories such as But I’m a Cheerleader largely due to the cinematography (accomplished beautifully by Ashely Connor). The lighting is conscientiously placed to denote the importance of youth’s bonds, bathing the main trio of Cameron, Jane, and Adam in soft warm lights to express their needed intimacy in a world where they’re told they’re sinners. This contrasts against the dull and neutral palette of the camp grounds and the various unhappy activities the members do to stop their SSA (same-sexual attraction) such as listing down all the ways they’ve been corrupted in life to make them the way they are. The sounds of this film work in harmony with the attention to colour and lighting as I felt the small noises, like Cameron’s uncomfortable shuffling in a chairs when she’s probed by questions about her intimate acts by camp counsellors, were amplified against the lack of non-diegetic and diegetic music throughout each scenes. This made is easier for the audience to stand on Cameron’s side, allowing us to focus on her movements and body language which Moretz performs with intense authenticity. The audience can truly understand Cameron’s guard she has been forced to put up against the world, one created by betrayal of her loved ones against her own character. These details convey and prove the message of the film to be an important one, containing contemporary issues despite being set in the early ’90s.

The whole atmosphere of The Miseducation of Cameron Post is soft and organic, focusing on the tenderness of youth and its defiance to express itself in its purest way. In contrast, the adult figures seem so rigid and oppressive, but as the story acts out the audience pick up on the fact that they are only this way after being forced themselves to be that way too. The cycle of oppression is clear, with Cameron and her comrades rebelling against it in the only way they can – through a bond with each other that can’t be broken. This film is significant for its message that is importance no matter the time or culture, and Camerons wish to just exist as her natural self is something you will want to experience with her.

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