So far, the bigger releases of 2018 have largely come in one of two flavours: disappointing and angry. Thankfully there has been the odd release that helps remind us that the world can be a happy place, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post certainly falls into that category.
For the unfamiliar, TMoCP, as the kids aren’t calling it, is based on the novel set in the 1990s about a gay teenage girl taken to a rural gay conversion camp, after her relationship with her lady friend is exposed. The camp is all very Christian leaning: hymns, prayers and awful rock bands aplenty. Of course, being a conversion camp there’s also a more sinister element at play, and getting through the stay becomes a matter of survival for Cameron – played by Chloë Grace Moretz.
I’ll be straight up and say, this film is a delight. Of course the subject matter is difficult to stomach at times, but director Desiree Akhavan approaches the topic with a great deal of sensitivity and care towards everyone here. Even the conversion camp’s officials are given enough room to have their intentions clarified, keeping things just short of daring to normalise their operation. As a result it makes the threat facing Cameron and her campmates a lot more tangible, Cameron Post‘s Dr Lydia Marsh and Reverend Rick feel like they could be running such camps right now. While events transpire that are certainly horrific consequences of the conversion programme, the film effortlessly makes these antagonists feel like they genuinely believe they’re doing the right thing. Jennifer Ehle’s Dr Marsh is the most monstrous of the two – think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s Nurse Ratched in a quiet Christian commune.
While the movie never shies away from confronting the realities of gay conversion therapy on its subjects, Cameron Post seems more interested in the unlikely relationships built by Cameron and her friends in the camp than exposing the horrors of the programme. Others have taken this as a criticism of the film and calling it “light” as a result, but I think that this is actually a success of the film’s storytelling. This film is never intending to get angry about its subject matter like, say, BlacKkKlansman.
Of course this movie absolutely and unequivocally comes out against conversion therapy (as does this blog for anyone wondering), but the way that the Christian camp is doomed to fail here is through friendship and love, rather than hate and anger. There’s plenty of room for both sides of the spectrum of course, but it certainly paints an interesting contrast to other movies this year that have depicted – and suggested – fighting hate with hate.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is one of those films that deserves to be seen by a lot more people than it probably will in its limited run in cinemas. When you have certain pieces of cinematic dreck polluting auditoriums with awful filmmaking, and films like TMoCP hiding away in smaller screens, it can be easy to lose a bit of faith in the system. Hopefully the awards season will be kind enough to this film that more people get to see it, to say the least it would be thoroughly deserved.