The Miseducation of Cameron Post: Film Review

I saw The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which won the Grand Jury prize at the main Sundance Film Festival, at Sundance London just days after I had read Emily Danforth‘s novel, and because of this I couldn’t help but be nitpicky, noticing all the differences between the book and the film instead of appreciating the film for what it was.

Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cameron, who is a lesbian and is packed off to a gay conversion facility by her religious aunt Ruth after she is caught getting hot and heavy with Coley Taylor (Quinn Shephard) in the back of a car outside prom. At God’s Promise, run by Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr) and Lydia (Jennifer Ehle), Cameron meets new friends Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck), fellow disciples who also think the whole process is BS.

I was thrown in the beginning because it cuts out so much of the first half of the novel, it is pretty much all gone. The novel is long and spans a long period of time, from Cameron’s parents dying and her first lesbian experience to Coley. This is all missing, even the Coley stuff is told via minimal flashbacks. I felt like the rest of the audience was missing out on so much rich character stuff, like I had the inside track on who Cameron and Aunt Ruth was. Grandma and Irene also do not exist here.

But as the movie continued I began to understand why it focused on the conversion camp part – it is a much tighter story told over a shorter period of time. Once I recognised the reasons behind all those changes I could appreciate why it was streamlined. It would have been too long and the narrative would have been all over the place otherwise.

Moretz wasn’t an obvious choice for the role but she did a great job, really giving a subtle and nuanced performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if her name was thrown into the ring this awards season. I also loved Lane as Jane, complete with prosthetic leg, and Ehle as the icy Lydia.

I enjoyed the script a lot and the balance between serious and light. There is a healthy amount of levity here and I think that was important. The filmmaker Desiree Akhavan pretty much takes the piss out of the conversion camp idea or at least doesn’t try to hide how ridiculous she thinks it is.

I would have liked the ending to have had the same planning and build up it did in the novel. I knew what was coming but I don’t think it was super clear for others. It just sort of ends, and the outcome is satisfactory, but I just wanted something more impactful or dramatic. It’s too casual.

I will probably love Cameron Post more if I give it time and some distance from the book because right now I can’t appreciate it as its own thing. It is very good, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just being super critical because I loved the book.

Originally seen as part of the Sundance London film festival. In selected cinemas from today 

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