The Miseducation of Cameron Post ( the film shown as part of Pride Saltires LGBT History month programme)
***** (5 stars)
This, the third and final film in the Pride Scotia series at the Brunton, was as excellent as the first two, and like last week’s played to a disappointingly small audience. I had seen this film before, but was so impressed with it that I was more than happy to see it again. Chloe Grace Moretz, who first impressed me in Hugo, here takes on a much more mature role, as the eponymous heroine.
It’s 1993 and Cameron is going with her boyfriend and another young couple to the high school prom to celebrate graduation: in the unglamorous school hall all seems to be proceeding in a yawningly conventional fashion when Cameron, who has been dancing with her girlfriend rather than the boy she came with, grabs her hand and takes her outside, where they make out in a car – only to be discovered by the horrified boyfriend…
Cameron is taken by her mother to God’s Promise – a supposedly christian establishment which aims to ‘convert’ young people suffering from SSA [same-sex attraction]. Reverend Rick and his sister Dr Marsh, superbly and chillingly played by John Gallagher Jr. and Jennifer Ehle, smile determinedly all the time, convinced they are doing god’s will. Earnest and squeakily clean young people do their best to conform and identify the root causes of the SSA, which they are told is but the tip of the iceberg, a symptom of much deeper problems.
The film is beautifully shot, cleverly presented, and a hideous picture of the damage that can be done by people who, it becomes clear, are simply making it up as they go along. Adam [Forrest Goodluck] and Jane [Sasha Lane] refuse to be taken in by the ‘religious claptrap’ and Cameron gravitates towards them as she silently tries to work out what’s going on around her, to fit in and to do what’s expected of her. It’s only they who can see things as they really are – that Dr Marsh ‘converted’ her brother Rick and is now trying her method on others: everything being done in the name of god, with bible references to back up, while brother and sister are oblivious to the damage that is being done.
Cameron finally rebels, refusing to accept that this treatment is anything other than emotional abuse. She asks the man sent to investigate the facility after one ‘disciple’ seriously and deliberately mutilates himself “How is programming people to hate themselves not emotional abuse?” The three rebels ceremonially burnt their ‘iceberg’ pictures and ride off into who knows where in the back of a pickup truck, and for the first time we see them begin to smile and then laugh…
My companion found it incomprehensible that people could (a) think that way and (b) treat people so appallingly. She said that her teenage children simply can’t grasp why anyone should get in a snit about how anyone else perceives their gender or sexuality – but then they’re Quaker children. To those of us who’ve lived a good part of their lives in the closet, these views and behaviour are all too familiar even today – many people are still convinced that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice as well as a sin, and that it’s possible to ‘convert’ people to ‘normality’.
Review by Mary Woodward.