The big-screen adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s beloved 2012 young adult novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, takes place circa the early ’90s, as evidenced by the titular character’s attachment to the Breeders’ Last Splash on cassette. But the insidious programming that the hoodie and jean jacket-sporting Cameron endures at a "conversion therapy" camp called God’s Promise is as prescient as ever, considering Mike Pence’s affinity for the dangerous practice.
Desiree Akhavan, the bisexual Iranian-American director of the lively 2014 festival smash Appropriate Behavior, helms the adaptation — which stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the teenage lesbian whose evangelical aunt caretaker (in the wake of Cameron’s parents’ death) ships her off to conversion therapy after her male prom date finds her in flagrante delicto with another girl.
Fans of the novel are sure to note that the film, running at a brisk 90 minutes, truncates the novel’s opening in which Cameron discovers and begins to own her queerness. Rather, Akhavan, who wrote the script with Cecilia Frugiuele, opts for a few taut introductory scenes to depict Cameron surrounded by Bible-thumpers — when she’s not hooking up with her girlfriend Coley (played primarily in flashback by Quinn Shephard) — before settling in at God’s Promise for the bulk of the film.
Upon arrival at the seemingly placid conversion therapy center run by “ex-gay” Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and his draconian therapist sister Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle), Cameron is greeted by Jane (Sasha Lane), a refreshingly free spirit at a camp where kids are taught to hate their true selves. Among the other denizens of God’s Promise are Erin, Cameron’s outwardly pious but inwardly conflicted soft butch roommate, played by Emily Skeggs (Fun Home, When We Rise), Native American two-spirit Adam (Forrest Goodluck), and Mark (Owen Campbell), the soon-to-graduate camper whose father won’t accept any femininity in his son.
An elegiac film that teems with longing for a simpler time, The Miseducation of Cameron Post refreshingly depicts frank sexuality and desire between teen girls as Cameron refuses to buy into the pathos of self-hatred served daily at conversion therapy camp; even as some of the other kids unravel in dangerous ways. Unlike the gay male teens in recent coming-out stories like Love, Simon and Alex Strangelove, Cameron arrives on screen fully aware of her queerness and ready to fight for it.