*This post contains spoilers*
The first time I heard about The Miseducation Of Cameron Post was on Twitter the day after it won the highest honour – the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize- at Sundance Festival. The person who had posted about the announcement tagged on their own declaration of “why is nobody talking about the fact that a YA adapation with a female/female relationship in just won the biggest award at this massive film festival?” And rightfully so: why exactly was no one talking about it? This lead to discussions in the online book community about the differences in how YA stories with Queer female relationships are marketed in comparision to Queer male relationships. When the film finally had the rights bought off the back of its big win, I eagerly picked up the book – of the same name- by Emily M. Danforth and started to read. Sadly, the limited showings meant there wasn’t one in the vicinity and so I was left waiting for a DVD release. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to my Netflix account to see it staring right back at me.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post follows a girl called Cameron who is sent to a christian gay conversion institution after being caught having a sexual moment with her female best friend, Coley Taylor.
The book is told in linear and spends over 300 pages delving into Cameron’s family life and how her relationship with Coley starts to blossom. Over half of the book is done before Cameron even steps foot into the center whereas the movie is entirely set in this place, using flashbacks to filter in the backstory the viewer needs. I absolutely understand why this conscious decision was made. Films have time constraints and with a 500 page book being turned into a 90 minute film, of course amendments will happen. I ended up loving both the book and its adaptation for different reasons. I like the angle of the movie and how it leaves a lot of things open to interpretation; instead focusing mainly on the moment Cameron and Coley got caught as a return point throughout. It feels a lot more present. I also love the book for the depth of backstory given and how readers grow to love and care for Cameron that when she ends up being sent away it feels like the reader is experiencing the betrayal too.
The only real issue that I had with this film comes down to the framing that, coincidentally, I just praised. Cameron links her parents death to her first kiss with Coley and punishes herself a lot for it as religion plays a part in her daily life. Cameron is given a lot more sexually and Coley doesn’t want anything in return which builds up a cycle of constant rejection the protagonist feels, there’s Cameron’s boyfriend Jamie; all of which don’t play a part in the movie. Cameron becomes more of someone who thinks the system is rubbish than something who takes the process seriously. I just felt that a lot of what makes her such a well-rounded, detailed character was lost in that translation.
While I went into this experience slightly biased as I pictured Cameron as Chloe Grace Moretz, she does an amazing job of holding the film together. Every scene she’s in has the viewer hanging on her every word and movement and the emotional scenes had my heart just aching. I’ve seen a few of Chloe’s films and this is definitely one of her best performances. The surrounding cast is also perfect. Sasha Lane as Jane Fonda and Forrest Goodluck as Adam were just wonderful at bringing the side actors to life; to created that outlet for Cameron to talk to someone who was on her side without fear of repercussions and their friendship felt natural; like one of those destined to last for years to come. A personal favourite for me with Erin played by Emily Skegg. I adored Erin in the books and it was impossible not to feel for Emily’s potrayal of this character so desperate not to admit that she’s struggling.
The bitter pill to swallow with this story is the realisation that gay conversation places still exist. It makes the particularly graphic book scene with Mark (which is very toned down in the film) have even more weight to it than just a fictional character viewers have grown attached to, A lot of the film is centered more in what isn’t said than what is; creating a depth of its own.
Aside for characters, the cinematography is gorgeous and the lingering frames allow plenty of time of time for viewers to feel familiar with the surroundings. The screenplay is so well crafted that scenes just flow into each other perfectly and when the film reaches its conclusion, there’s a sense that something really special has been put out into the world.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post is a gem I will continue thinking about for a long time.