The Miseducation of Cameron Post: Exquisite film, outstanding cast

Review: Chloë Grace Moretz, Forrest Goodluck and Sasha Lane in a Sundance-winning drama

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
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Director: Desiree Akhavan
Cert: 16
Genre: Drama
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher jnr, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich, Jennifer Ehle
Running Time: 1 hr 31 mins

Desiree Akhavan’s Sundance-winning drama, based on the book of the same name by Emily M Danforth, follows the titular Montana teen to a Christian conversion “therapy” camp after her lesbian relationship with her best friend is dramatically – excruciatingly – discovered at a Homecoming Dance.

An institutionalised dread hangs around the isolated cabins at camp and the fiercely passive-aggressive therapy sessions suggest, that on any given day, one of the inmates will go Full Metal Jacket, or that the staff will turn Nurse Ratchet.

It ought to be harrowing, but working from a screenplay co-written with Cecilia Frugiuele, Akhavan has, despite one awful event, fashioned a hipper, woker, more understated version of your favourite John Hughes movie.

At camp – an unlovely institution called God's Promise – Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) soon falls in with the cool kids, Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) and the saucy, improbably named Jane Fonda (American Honey's Sasha Lane).

Together they grow and smoke weed away from the watchful glare of Dr Lydia (Jennifer Ehle), the “expert” who runs the facility. Cameron, we learn, has lost both her parents, a grief that mostly manifests as a blank daze that can drive more chipper converts to distraction. “Your silence feels aggressive and judgmental, and it makes this place not safe,” one exasperated choirgirl barks at the reticent protagonist.

Akhavan carefully reconstructs 1993 – a Breeders tape here, a Clinton-Gore bumper sticker there – without fussily festooning the film with period details. A fine ensemble turn in terrific work: Ehle is simultaneously concerned and chilling, John Gallagher Jr’s well-meaning Reverend Rick is as warm as he is clueless.

Moretz, Lane and Goodluck are outstanding as the three chums at the heart of the picture, who, in time, prove far wiser than all of their adult carers. Taking cues from Akhavan’s delicately poised, observational humour, Ashley Connor’s cinematography gleams from where there ought to be gloom.

Following the director's overlooked 2014 debut, Appropriate Behaviour, this exquisite, bittersweet sophomore effort announces Akhavan as a major talent.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic