Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post dir. Desiree Akhavan (Love and Pride Film Festival 2018)

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Gay conversion independent drama leaves audiences on a hopeful note

Based off Emily M. Danforth’s novel of the same name, which in turn was based off the 2005 Zach Stark ‘de-gaying’ controversy, The Miseducation of Cameron Post ditches the modernities of the original source to set its tale in 1993, where teenagers lived in a simpler time, devoid of Instagram, blogs and mobile phones, and fully decked out in the fashions of the 90s.

This sets the scene for our protagonist, Kim (Chloe Grace Moretz), as the teenager is caught passionately making out in the back of a car with another girl after prom night. “It’s so messed up,” says her prom date Jamie, and Kim is promptly shipped off to God’s Promise, a Christian-based, ‘rehabilitation’ centre by her parents in the hopes that she will come to see the light and pray away her gay.

This of course, is where the teenager’s ‘miseducation’ begins – run by the severe Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), Kim signs a contract and adopts the titular name of Cameron Post as she enters her new life of horrors. There is nothing comforting about this new home at all, as Cameron begins to experience vivid fantasies and fever dreams from her experiences, while Dr Marsh rains hell and scripture upon her wards, even chastising a Hispanic sinner for his long hair and not to ‘hide his eyes from God’. In the world of Cameron Post, it’s the adults who turn out to be severely misguided, with the pornstache sporting Revered Rick himself is perhaps the prime manifestation of adult failure. As a ‘reformed’ same-sex addict ‘saved’ by two men who saw his car outside a gay bar, he becomes a terrifying living example of the lies we will continue to tell ourselves to please society.

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Thankfully, it’s not all fire and brimstone as Cameron finds comfort and camaraderie in a group of fellow sinners, from amputee stoner Jane (Sasha Lane) to Adam (Forrest Goodluck), and a fast friendship develops. In one of her finest and most convincing performances to date, Chloe Grace Moretz captures her character perfectly, bringing out Cameron’s sincerity, confusion and ultimately, her newfound courage as she and the world-weary teens find themselves in touch with and confident of their own identities, earmarking them as contemporary heroes and models to look up to in their self-assurance.

All of this comes to a head when fellow sinner Mark (Owen Campbell) attempts to take his own life in one of the most horrific descriptions possible. Armed with the knowledge that all this while they’ve been programmed to learn self-hate, the teens take it upon themselves to love again and find freedom from this hellhole, running away and leaving us breathless as they stowaway in the back of a truck – fate unknown but future certainly far brighter than if they stayed.

Harrowing at its worst, so real one could cry at its best and exquisitely filmed, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a period drama whose message of accepting one’s self rings all too true today, its protagonists symbols of the love we deserve the most – our own. As the teens burn up images of the ‘icebergs’ of the issues that are to blame for their queer desire, one cannot help but feel equally unbound from the restraints that have been holding them down all this while, leaving us at last the space to breathe and begin life anew by the end of this glorious, indelible film.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post plays on 6th and 12th October 2018 at GV Grand. The 10th Love and Pride Film Festival runs from 4th – 14th October at GV Grand and GV Vivocity. All films are rated R21. For full schedule and tickets, check out their website here

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