In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Writers: Desiree Akhavan (screenplay), Cecilia Frugiuele (screenplay)
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Marin Ireland
From the very beginning of time, religion and the LGBT community have been at odds with one another. Hell, I’d even call it a war. Having been a church-goer during my formative years, I know that the church has been the aggressor in this war.
Which brings us to The Miseducation of Cameron Post, based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth, director Desiree Akhavan confronts the controversial practice of Christian gay-conversion therapy camps.
Set in 1993, Chloë Grace Moretz plays the titular role of Cameron Post, who is caught making out with her best friend, Coley (Quinn Shepard), while on a double dating at her high school prom. Fearful that her daughter might be gay, Cameron’s aunt, Ruth (Kerry Butler) sends her to God’s Promise, a gay-conversion camp.
Running the camp is Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), a successful convert himself, and his therapist sister Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle). Her fellow campers include Mark (Owen Campbell), Cameron’s camp roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs), Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane), and Adam (Forrest Goodluck).
Cameron finds it difficult to connect with the program and teachings at God’s Promise. While Mark, Erin, and the others have progressed far, it is Jane and Adam, who help Cameron work the “system” by helping her say and do the right things to bring her stay to an early end.
The “system” involves a picture of an iceberg. The small piece of ice above the water symbolizes your SSA (Same-Sex Attraction). The giant, unseen piece of ice is everything feeding your SSA. For Cameron, Dr. Lydia explores everything from Cameron’s competitiveness in sports to the sudden death of her parents.
Like many of the churches I’ve been a member, God’s Promise uses Bible-based rules to control the campers’ behavior. Rules that reinforce traditional gender roles and glibly explain the cure of same-sex attraction. More often than not, the rules are loosely based on a verse or two, but ultimately they were created out of convenience to support Lydia and Rick’s therapy methods.
From the perspective of someone who’s been a part of the church for a long time, the events and portrayals in The Miseducation of Cameron Post feel real and authentic. Not knowing anything about writers Desiree Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele, they either did extensive research or lived through these experiences personally. I can almost hear the criticism, but it could never claim the film is inaccurate.
The performances are subtle and insightful. Chloë Grace Moretz pretty much carries the entire film, and we see and feel Cameron’s experiences through her eyes. John Gallagher Jr. as Reverend Rick is well meaning with an added twinge of inner turmoil. Jennifer Ehle’s Dr. Marsh is the camp’s controlling dictator with half a smirk.
I know I don’t have to say this, but The Miseducation of Cameron Post is highly critical of gay-conversion therapy and does not pretend to take sides, nor should it. When it comes to its criticism of the church and its leaders, it’s fair. Rick and Marsh are not portrayed as psychotic, abusive torturers. Instead, it presents the issues and practices of these camps and shows why they don’t work. Almost as a rational message to the church to rethink its treatment of the LGBT community.
– Alan Ng, Film Threat