Review: THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (2018)

Some films make you angry, some films make you cry, and some films make you squirm, and some of the best make you feel them all. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is one of those films.

It’s a hard sell to a mainstream audience I suppose – the story of a young LGBT+ person’s experience of gay conversion therapy – but it’s a vital watch for anyone in doubt that these issues are no longer prevalent and affect lives daily. Like Spike Lee’s BlacKKKlansman, also out in cinema, both are period stories that starkly reflect the fractured and disturbing prejudices and methods of discrimination that still pervade throughout in the US today. It’s easy to factor in that this film was made during the 2016 presidential election, a putrid time that uncovered a swath of uncertainty and fear about how minorities, including the LGBT+ community, would be treated in Trump’s American nightmare.

The director of TMOCP, Desiree Akhavan first came to my attention with her writing/directing debut, Appropriate Behaviour (which may still be on Netflix if you have a quick search), a funny and seemingly personal tale of an Iranian-American bisexual person navigating the single life and familial relations in New York. The non-tropey bisexual on film is such a rare find, so Appropriate Behaviour was something of a revelation to me. I couldn’t think of anyone more suited to take on this new story of another LGBT+ experience.

The 1993-set TMOCP is adapted from the novel of the same name by Emily Danforth, and the film takes the core plot of Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), who after being caught having sex with her best friend on prom night, is shipped off to a Christian camp called God’s Promise to be cured of her “same-sex attraction.”

The camp is an eerie place of fake smiles and hushed tones, where even Cameron’s cassette tape of The Breeders is even too risqué for consumption. We watch in disbelief as Cameron’s and the other camp members’ “sins” are explained away as symptoms of prior traumas. Being over indulged with sports by a parent is weaponised as tool for shame. Thankfully, the film creates moments that allow for humour, piercing what could be unbearable into a more manageable, if still shocking, world to witness. There’s a rendition of 4 Non-Blondes ‘What’s Up’, as much an anthem for confused discontentment now as it was in 1993, that raises genuine smiles. And in case you wondered, ‘Blessercise’ is a real thing.

Moretz is excellent, her eyes are incredibly expressive as they scan the rest of her therapy group as she tries, or perhaps hopes to not, see herself in them. At times we’re unsure if the ‘therapy’ is finally working on Cameron, just as we are party to the devastating affects of what is essentially, sanctioned torture. My joy at seeing Jennifer Ehle (please cast her in everything please) was short-lived due only to her stand-out depiction of Dr. Marsh, a softly spoken Nurse Ratched, rigid in her belief of being on the right side of morality.  Co-stars Sasha Lane, winningly called Jane Fonda,  and Forrest Goodluck are Cameron’s cool-for-school kindred spirits as they come to terms with just how they got to God’s Promise in the first place and if indeed, they will ever get out as the same people. I particularly enjoyed Cameron’s assigned roommate, Erin, who easily could have been used simply as a mode of diffusing the tension, but like everyone in this film, gets a chance to show many facets of themselves.

Though the ‘doctors’ of God’s Promise attempt to reduce everyone down to their own  unique behavioral ‘iceberg’ diagrams, the characters constantly, with varying degrees of success, break free from their icy surroundings and assigned gender/sexual  straitjackets. I was reminded also of Todd Hayne’s Safe, another film that dealt with clinical psychologies and enforced communal life in the 1990s.

The final wordless scenes in the film are as optimistic as we can hope to expect in a tale that so rooted in realism, and though we cannot know what the future holds for these characters, the morning sun has never felt more liberating.

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Review: Kyss Mig (2011)

We have the Scandinavians a lot to thank for in recent years in regards to TV and movies. If you’re looking for intriguing stories, beautiful scenery and people who look even better, then the Scandi-wave which has tsunami-ed our shores is as exciting as ever. Of course, while the quality of Scandinavian filmmaking has never been doubted, the success of series such as The Killing, Borgen and silver screen adaptations of the Millennium trilogy and Headhunters to name a few, chances to see our European neighbours work has certainly increased.

With this in mind then, GIRL ON FILM has chosen to review a film which while not a nail-biting detective thriller, does have many cosy-looking jumpers in the style of Sofie Gråbøl. Kyss Mig (Kiss Me) is a 2011 Swedish romance film directed by Alexandra-Therese Keining and stars Ruth Vega Fernandez and Liv Mjönes as well as Lena Endre and Wallander‘s Krister Henriksson.

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The film tells the story of Mia (Ruth Vega Fernandez), an up-and-coming architect about to marry Tim (Joakim Nätterqvist), her business partner. At the engagement party for her also newly-engaged Father, Lasse (Krister Henriksson), she meets Frida (Liv Mjönes), daughter of her Lasse’s fiancee, Elisabeth (Lena Endre). Mia and Frida exchange many glances, portending mutual attraction. Mia and Frida both visit the remote island home Elisabeth and Lasse plan to share. Frida continues to be intrigued by Mia whose feelings are mutual but conflicted by her relationship with Tim. Mia and Frida’s feelings for one another blossom becoming increasingly urgent, until finally, Mia is left to decide whether to suppress her love for Frida or go on with her wedding plans or break off her engagement to Tim.

On the surface, this is a ‘coming out’ story, but underlying the drama and romance is a tale of two families attempting to unite as Lasse and Elisabeth become engaged. The actions of their children forces the older couple to discover more about one another in the wake of their daughter’s revelations and at times, though we are primarily focusing on the awakenings of Mia and Frida, the film contains scenes which superbly utilises its ensemble cast. A film which it could be most likened to is the recent Love is All You Need (2012), a Danish film starring Pierce Brosnan which has just been released this month in the UK.

As well as being an engaging family drama, Kyss Mig is a film which is GORGEOUS to look at. Concerning characters who sip glasses of red wine in attractive gardens in private holiday homes, you could be mistaken for thinking this was a film approved by the Swedish tourism board (though that’s probably because our home-grown Brit flicks sometimes waver between Nil by Mouth and Billy Elliot in comparison). The upper-middle-class-ness of it all shouldn’t put you off however, as it all adds to the escapism which makes the love story and setting feel like a fairytale on film.

Paired with the raw emotion the Swedish do so well, the film also boasts a soundtrack which elevates the film in its key scenes, letting the likes of José Gonzalez and Robyn replace what could be superfluous dialogue and allow the characters to flourish against a backdrop of stunning cinematography and sparkling chemistry.

If you’re looking for a film that’s heart-warming, thought-provoking as well as some dazzling romance, heartache and some beautifully sexy scenes, then this is the perfect film. If you like to suspend your cynicism, believe in true love and trust the power of family- Kyss Mig will be the film for you.

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