I’m back! I have taken a short break from writing, simply because, well… your girl needed a rest. And while I have spent most of these last couple of weeks holed up inside with a cold or at work with a cold, I did manage to catch Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which won big at Sundance earlier this year.
I had very high hopes for this film. I love Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane has a fantastic, mysterious screen energy and most importantly, it’s a very female story, a lesbian story, told by women. It’s a huge step in the right direction and one that we need desperately.
Cameron Post gets caught fooling around with another girl at prom by her boyfriend, so Cameron’s well-meaning aunt send her off to God’s Promise, which seems to be a cross between camp and boarding school. At God’s Promise, they try to find excuses as to why their occupants feel how they feel and more importantly, how to get rid of those feelings of SSA (same-sex attraction).
While this premise promises a highly emotional film, the end result is not the film you expected or wanted it to be. I was expecting big emotions and a big climax, but Akhavan’s film is much more subtle than that. Cameron is almost too silent, too subdued during the film. She doesn’t agree with God’s Promise’s teachings but she also doesn’t fight being there, she doesn’t actively resist the exercises. There’s no real sense of anarchy. At first this can feel like a disappointment, like you were cheated out of the film you wanted to watch, but Akhavan’s film is quietly shocking. The kids at God’s Promise aren’t getting beaten and most of them seem quite happy, but this is all on the surface. The reality is that these kids are taught to hate themselves and to fight against their identity, it’s emotional abuse as Cameron herself says. And that alone should be horrendous enough.
The film is also surprisingly funny. I went in expecting a profoundly sad film and came out grinning because it was witty and fun. Even when life deals you a crappy hand, you still find time to smile and crack a joke and it’s lovely to see that reflected in the film. The chemistry between all the lead actors is fantastic, it’s almost as if they have a secret we’re not in on and they’re winking behind our backs.
The one thing I truly loved was the treatment of God’s Promise’s counselors. They are never made into true villains, but people who truly believe they are helping. The character of Reverend Rick is especially tragic and John Gallagher Jr. plays him with admirable vulnerability. Eating cereal has never been this emotional. Our main baddie is Lydia, the founder of God’s Promise. She’s mean, but deep down she still thinks she’s doing the kids a favour by taking her experience in psychology and trying to cure these kids. The film never talks down to the audience by making these people outright cruel or violent, making The Miseducation of Cameron Post such a better and more nuanced film.
I do have a slight problem with the main character, Cameron. I did find the constant silence incredibly infuriating. While the film feels very natural, very real, we are walking in Cameron’s shoes and I really wanted to see the fight in her. She goes from not interested to kind of playing along with the counselors. After a tragedy at the premises leads to an investigation, she tells them they’re being emotionally abused at God’s Promise, but she never really resisted. While she is all too right to say this, it does feel a bit sudden from someone who spent the majority of the film as a very passive character.
So all in all, the film left me with some very conflicted emotions. On one hand, I loved the very natural feel of the film and it’s such an important film. The actors are all fantastic. I just wanted to feel a bit more.