Runtime: 91 Minutes
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Writer: Desiree Akhavan & Cecilia Frugiuele (based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth)
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Quinn Shephard, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher Jr., Forrest Goodluck, Jennifer Ehle
By Georgia De Souza
To capture the essence of the LGBTQ+ community is becoming a more popular narrative in contemporary cinema. But to be able to evidence their struggles and hardships, whilst also attaining a light-hearted atmosphere, showing raw emotion, and enabling a true presentation of a situation that can be reflected into many of the audience’s daily lives, is what is lacking in many of these recent movies. Yet Desiree Akhavan presents all of this so effortlessly in her film “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community herself enabled significant support for Akhavan when she directed this beautiful narrative which follows friendships, betrayals and the exploration of sexualities.
What She Said:
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post serves as a beacon of light for anyone struggling with aspects of their lives and proves that being true to yourself is the only way to live.”Morgan Rojas, CinemacyTwitter@morgtayro
When I first heard about the film, I feared as a young female bisexual, from a strong Catholic family, that the narrative would ineffectively tackle the hardships I myself have come across, let alone those I would have had to face if I lived in the 1990’s. But instead I was delighted with the films narrative, which drew me into each character through the confident assurance of the light-hearted script, which has made this film become one of my most recommended LGBTQ+ films, and has landed Desiree Akhavan with the 34th spot in the In Their Own League ‘Top 50 Female-Directed Films of the Decade.’
The narrative starts off in 1993 with 16-year-old Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz), getting caught in a ‘sinful’ act – having sex with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard) in the backseat of a car during their school prom. Once her deeply religious aunt finds out, Cameron is sent to a gay conversion camp ‘God’s Promise’ in Montana. Here she is forced to understand the cause of her feelings by programme leaders Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother – the ‘ex-gay’ success story – Rev. Rick (John Gallagher Jr.). Luckily for Cameron, she finds solace with fellow ‘disciples’ Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck). The three teenagers quietly rebel against the camp directors, knowing that their sexuality cannot be pushed out of them.
What She Said:
“If anyone needs another answer as to why we need more diverse voices making films, here it is.”
Being set in the 90’s, Akhavan is able to create a more intense presentation of Cameron’s initial intrigue with her sexuality – using flashbacks to build up the intense relationship between her and best friend Coley. Their secret make-out sessions are explored as cinematographer Ashley Connor’s captures their emotional states through the slow, static and intimate movement mimicking the characters nerves towards the situation, imperatively capturing the emotional experience of the sexual desire of kissing a girl for the first time – which as a queer viewer is an extremely significant moment.
Whilst entertaining the queer emotions of Cameron Post, Akhavan uses her fellow disciples – Adam and Jane Fonda – to become instruments in affirming Cam’s sexual desires towards girls, without insinuating a romantic relationship between the two female friends. It is purely through the relationship between the three friends that brings about a true uniqueness for Akhavan’s film, as she does not rely on the sexual attraction of characters to move the narrative on further.
What She Said:
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a lesson in acceptance and a call to arms with a beautiful beating heart.”Ella Kemp, Culture WhisperTwitter @ella_kemp
Even with the obvious underlying of the sexual desire being a key element for the film, Desiree manages to focus more on the emotional abuse the disciples face in the camp and how it allows them to form friendships whilst challenging their sexuality, the programme leaders and how they want to perceive themselves – as Jane Fonda argues to Cam “Maybe you’re supposed to feel disgusted with yourself when you’re a teenager.”
By simply building up their comradery, Akhavan allows the film to become light-hearted whilst ensuring the hard-hitting foundation is still prevalent. As a queer viewer, I have found that films which delve into sexualities in this way often diminish the motive of the characters initial exploration into their sexuality; however, Akhavan’s use of flashbacks cement Cam’s true sexual desires and turmoil as she navigates her way through God’s Promise Camp.
Whilst Akhavan effectively explores the queer life in 1993, she does so by not solving all of the issues that occur through the narrative. Cameron is seen to attempt to understand what is underneath the surface in regard to her sexuality – her masculine involvement with sport, the lack of parental affection due to the loss of her parents. But by the end of the film, we are still left with Cameron trying to understand it herself. For some this may seem like an abrupt ending, but the reality of understanding, and gaining the self-assurance of one’s sexuality is extremely difficult; and therefore, Akhavan effectively reflects the common self-uncertainty for queer teens – I myself resonating with this strongly.
To see such a realistic presentation of issues that I myself have faced displayed in this film was almost reassuring, yet annoying that I hadn’t had the chance to have something like this available to me when I was initially questioning my sexuality. Desiree Akhavan’s own experiences in her sexuality are extremely beneficial for this film and gives her a deserved spot on the In Their Own League ‘Top 50 Female-Directed Films of the Decade.’
The Extra Bits:
Where to watch:
Who to follow:
Desiree Akhavan @desireeeakhavan
Chloë Grace Moretz @ChloeGMoretz
John Gallagher Jr @JohnGallagherJr
Cecilia Frugiuele @CFparkville