The Miseducation of Cameron Post (15)

THIS is the first of two dramas we’re getting over the coming months, preceding the much more high-profile Boy Erased, that deal head on with the controversial idea of conversion therapy.

This one is directed with tact, sensitivity and quiet courageousness by Desiree Akhavan, who caught the limelight with deeply personal indie comedy Appropriate Behaviour.

Based on the true life-inspired book by Emily M Danforth and set in 1993, Akhavan’s film tells the story of teenage girl Cam (Chloë Grace Moretz). After being caught messing around with her female best friend on prom night, she is sent to God’s Promise, a Christian conversion camp where they practise “curing” people of being gay.

“You can just call me Cam,” she proclaims in her first class. “Cameron is already a masculine name. To abbreviate to something even less feminine only adds to your gender confusion,” retorts Dr Lydia, the head of the camp played by brilliant character actress Jennifer Ehle with all the stoic self-righteousness of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

As Cam tries to settle in behind enemy lines, so to speak, she also meets Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr), a friendly-faced “recovering homosexual” held aloft as so-called proof that the therapy works, as well as other teens who have been sent to be “fixed”.

These include outspoken rebel Jane Fonda (American Honey’s Sasha Lane), Native American teen Adam (Forrest Goodluck) and Erin (Emily Skeggs), a devout follower of the programme whose commitment begins to waver upon Cam’s arrival.

It’s a difficult subject matter ripe for problematic tastelessness or to be riddled with heavy-handed messages. Akhavan’s film is anything but that sort of exploitative, lecturing filmmaking. She has created a graceful, humble yet deeply thought-provoking drama told with wit and a real sense of purpose, and anchored around a great central performance.

Moretz has never been better in a nuanced performance of affecting vulnerability giving way to inner strength and vice-versa. Appearing in just about every scene, she delivers an authentic and affecting portrayal of a young woman discovering her burgeoning sexuality just as the world around her seeks to entirely suppress it.

Akhavan’s timely LGBTQ coming-of-age drama aches with a relatable truthfulness, told with piercing specificity as much as open-hearted universality. There’s nothing showy about the way it handles spiky subject matter, choosing the more restrained path less travelled, resulting in a film that says a lot and affects even more without making a fuss.