In an era where we are fighting for equality, the messaging of Desiree Akhavan‘s beautifully crafted and deeply felt “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is a welcomed addition to the film year. Led by a career-best performance by Chloë Grace Moretz, the film slivers its way into a moving piece about finding and owning who you were born to be. Akhavan’s sophomore outing as a director (following her 2014 indie hit “Appropriate Behaviour,” in which she also starred), lets her explore the weight of the camera as it focuses on raw emotions and expert filmmaking techniques.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” takes place in 1993, where Cameron (Moretz), a teenage girl, is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians. As she reflects on the actions that put her there, she interacts with two other teenagers (Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck) at the center, while being “treated” by the Reverend Nick (John Gallagher, Jr.) and Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle).
Akhavan’s dramedy delivers fresh insights about the turmoil that the LGBTQ community has faced for centuries while also exploring the feelings of adolescence. The co-writer/director finds a warmer part of herself in this coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the bittersweet realization of who you are supposed to be. Effortlessly accomplished, Akhavan emerges as a fully formed filmmaking talent that we should relish and cherish for years to come.
The film’s rewards are many, but not more than the unforgettable performance of Chloë Grace Moretz. Her interpretation is rooted in the human condition that ascends to an infinite understanding of the character. Her passion is palpable, heartwrenching, and genuine in a complete portrait of a struggling young girl, desperate to find herself.
The film is as much about the feeling connected to someone as it is about your disconnection to the world. This is evidenced by the work of the film’s cast. Sasha Lane, who gained notice in “American Honey,” is a brief tour de force that will continue to evolve as one of our most gifted thespians. Mark my words.
Forrest Goodluck, who you may remember as the ill-fated son of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugo Glass in the Oscar-winning film “The Revenant,” is able to explore a more sensitive and layered role. Fearless and honest, Goodluck discovers and examines his understanding of this broken young man.
The movie swings back and forth between tragedy and comedy like a seamless pendulum. Jennifer Ehle concocts a woman in a twisted relationship with her creator and the world, inserting luscious beats that are felt throughout. Always compelling, her work may very well be her finest moment on film yet as referenced in her earlier works like “A Quiet Passion” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Also, John Gallagher, Jr. delicate and conflicted Reverend.
Assembling an impressive team of women craftsman is among the film’s highest achievements. Ashley Connor‘s yellow-orange hues make the film emulate some of film history’s most profound coming-of-age films like “Almost Famous.” Sara Shaw‘s edits come fast and quick, lingering on the moments of silence that strike the viewer with a real ferocity. Stacey Berman‘s simple but striking “catholic school-like” uniforms for the teens are active while John Arnos, Erin Blake, and Markus Kirschner‘s set and production designs capture the 90s with vigorous resolve.
There’s tremendous heart in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” showing itself as a sincere and honest depiction of the pain of a group of people who are still very much marginalized. A must-see in the summer’s noise of blockbusters, we have been delivered one of the great finds of the year in Desiree Akhavan.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” opens in theaters on Aug. 3 and is distributed by FilmRise and Vertigo Releasing.