Netflix UK film review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Boxes of tissues required9.5
Bianca Garner | On 20, Jan 2019
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Marin Ireland, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher Jr., Quinn Shephard
Watch The Miseducation of Cameron Post online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
In 2012, the coming-of-age novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post was published. When asked about her inspiration for the story, writer Emily Danforth stated that it was influenced by the 2005 case of Zach Stark, who was sent to conversion camp after coming out as gay to his parents. Knowing this information beforehand is deeply unsettling and adds another layer to this incredibly moving drama, which speaks to any of those who have been bullied and forced into a lifestyle that they cannot accept.
Set in the early 1990s, the films begins with Cameron Post (Moretz) being caught by her boyfriend during a sexual encounter with another girl, Coley Taylor (Quinn Shephard), in the back of a car during prom night. Cameron’s aunt, Ruth (Kerry Butler), a devout Christian, sends Cameron to a gay conversion therapy centre for teenagers, named God’s Promise. It is run by the strict and severe Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who claims that his sisters’ methods cured him of his own homosexuality. Cameron befriends Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane), and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck). The three teenagers bond over their mutual rebelliousness and their shared skepticism of the camp’s purpose, but will their friendship prevail, or will God’s Promise manage to “cure” Cameron?
Moretz as Cameron has been severely overlooked by many awards committees, and this is her best and most heartfelt performance yet. Perhaps another less experienced actress would have failed to draw out the inner turmoil that Cameron endures throughout the film; Moretz could be described as a veteran actor (she began acting at the tender age of six) and her breakout performance as Hit Girl in 2010’s Kick Ass showed her natural ability to take on roles that many would be wary of. It is hard not to be moved by one scene where she calls her ex-lover, only to break down into tears after the phone call, as she hides under a desk from the adults running the camp. In this one scene, we see the real Cameron – a vulnerable, lost girl who is just seeking some form of love and affection in the world.
The supporting cast is also very strong. Ehle’s Dr. Marsh is very untrustworthy, with her facial expressions hard to read and her true intentions unknown; we do not know whether Marsh believes in the conversion therapy that she pushes onto this young adolescents, and this makes her a dangerous individual. It is a pity that there aren’t more scenes with just Moretz and Ehle. Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck as Cameron’s friends are also noteworthy, with their characters fully fleshed out and having depth.
Director Desiree Akhavan is best known for her debut feature, Appropriate Behavior, in which she played an alternative version of herself. She has a distinct voice and her approach to storytelling is refreshing, and she manages to capture what it means to be a young woman in the 21st century. The 1990s aesthetic is expertly depicted here, with the film’s mise-en-scene looking authentic, without being too noticeable or over-the-top.
The film’s runtime is a little short and its ending seems slightly rushed, which may leave some viewers slightly frustrated. The darker scenes may also be tough for some to watch, but these are handled in a sensitive manner, without the incidents being glamorised or the characters mocked. Overall, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a beautiful and honest depiction of the transition between childhood and adulthood. It is more than just another coming-of-age drama, and is fresh and original in its portrayal of the life of a teenage girl who is embracing her sexuality and finding her identity. Akhavan is certainly establishing herself as a new voice in queer cinema – it will be interesting to see what she does next.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.