When it comes to films depicting the LGBTQ experience, we rarely get films that depict the topic of conversion therapy. Even if conversion therapy doesn’t involve physical discrimination, it still causes youths to discriminate against themselves and it is a topic that should be depicted on screen more. Thankfully, this year, we will be seeing the release of two films depicting this issue. One of them is Boy Erased starring Lucas Hedges. The other is the subject of this review and that is the earnest, well-acted gem called The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
It follows the story of a lesbian teenager named Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) who is sent to a conversion therapy camp by her guardians after being caught having sex with another girl at prom. During her stay, she befriends fellow campers Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) who help her find the courage to be herself. Even as Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother Rev. Rick Marsh (John Gallagher, Jr.) try to “cure” Cameron’s homosexuality with their strict teachings, Cameron still slowly gains the confidence to rebel against them.
The story may be simplistic but director/co-writer Desiree Akhavan still manages to make it mesmerizing by finding a balance of drama and surprising humor. The film never shies away from the seriousness of conversion therapy and how, as our main character says at one point, conversion therapy programs people to hate themselves. But at the same time, it still demonstrates our main characters finding the courage to be themselves in a light and hopeful manner. Small moments like Cameron bonding with Adam and Jane while smoking marijuana with them show that the three of them refuse to lose sight of who they are despite the lies that the Marsh siblings try to feed them.
Along with Akhavan’s direction, the acting ensemble helps give the film its soul as well. Chloe Grace Moretz delivers some of the best work of her career as Cameron Post, portraying a character that is more introverted than others she has played in the past. Sasha Lane proves her breakthrough performance in American Honey was not a fluke with her charismatic turn as Jane Fonda. Forrest Goodluck, who appeared as Leonardo DiCaprio’s son in The Revenant, delivers sincere frankness as the androgynous Adam. Meanwhile, John Gallagher, Jr. is incredibly three-dimensional as a Reverend who says he was “cured” of his homosexuality only for his denial to slip through the cracks.
However, the film’s biggest scene stealer is Jennifer Ehle as Lydia Marsh. Ehle takes a character that could’ve been portrayed as an archetype and infuses it with layers of dark comedy. Whether it’d be through a venomous line reading or a facial expression, she is a dominant presence without ever chewing the scenery; devious yet oblivious to the trauma she is inflicting; a clear fraud yet someone who conjures up ways to plague your mind. A pitch-perfect villainous performance.
Thanks to its brilliant acting and its simplistic yet sincere screenplay, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an essential gem about the courage to be true to yourself. It is hearty yet uncompromising in its demonstration of the film’s difficult subject matter and proves to be a piece of necessary viewing.