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The Miseducation of Cameron Post movie review

Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a novel about a teen girl sent to a gay conversion program in the early ‘90s, was not an easy read. Oh, it was good. It just wasn’t easy.

But when the film (Filmrise, August 2018; NR) was released, I wanted to support it. And of course, I was curious about how it would be adapted. So I grabbed a pack of tissues and went, and I’m glad I did.

The novel has a few distinct parts, with several hundred pages spent on Cameron’s life before she arrives at God’s Promise Christian School & Center for Healing. That works better on the page than it might onscreen, and the movie takes a smart approach to structure: almost the entire film takes place at the program, with flashbacks and dialogue revealing what we need to know about Cameron’s past when we need to know it. (The events of the last twenty pages or so are basically represented by one long image.)

Chloë Grace Moretz’s understated performance as Cameron leaves it to viewers to figure out much of what’s going on in her head as program leaders Rick and Lydia probe into her feelings and try to move her toward the program’s (homophobic) version of Christianity. Cameron’s tendency not to engage provides some of the movie’s humor, as it highlights the silliness of some of the questions being thrown at her. There’s actually quite a bit of comedy, as there is in the novel, which makes it all a little easier to handle; the variety of responses to the program among the “disciples” is also often entertaining — though sometimes, those responses are appropriately serious.

The most disturbing individual event in the novel — a teen’s act of severe self-harm and subsequent hospitalization — is also present in the film. It takes place off-screen, so to speak, in both the book and the movie, though dialogue makes it completely clear what’s happened. A difficult part of the story, to be sure, but the indictment of the program would have far less impact without it.

As with the novel, I wanted to pop into a lot of the scenes and say to the misguided adults, Don’t you see? There’s nothing wrong with Cameron or any of these other teens! But creating and supporting books and movies like this is a way to say just that.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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