MATTHEW BOND FILM OF THE WEEK

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LC ert: 15

ast year, one of the most talked-about films of the sum­mer was the gor­geous­look­ing art-house hit Call Me By Your Name, di­rected by Luca Guadagnino. North­ern Italy looked fab­u­lous, Ar­mie Ham­mer brought very short shorts back into fashion and the clos­ing mu­sic – Suf­jan Stevens’s haunt­ing Vi­sions Of Gideon – sent en­tire au­di­ences out into the street dab­bing gen­tly at their eyes. Against all the odds – or cer­tainly against main­stream Hol­ly­wood think­ing – a film about a teenage boy’s first gay re­la­tion­ship made quite an im­pact.

Which prob­a­bly goes some way to ex­plain­ing both the fuss and the mar­ket­ing push be­hind The Mise­d­u­ca­tion Of Cameron Post. A top prize-win­ner at the in­de­pen­dently spir­ited Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val and di­rected by a woman, De­siree Akha­van, it also chron­i­cles a first gay-teenager rite of pas­sage but from a much darker an­gle.

Be­cause when 17-year-old Cameron Post (Kick-Ass star Chloë Grace Moretz) is found hav­ing sex in the back of a car with her sexy first girl­friend, no one sits her down, as they did in Call Me By Your Name, for a cosy chat about wish­ing they had done some­thing sim­i­lar when they were young. In­stead, an em­bar­rassed, con­fused and even some­what pen­i­tent Cameron is packed off by her evan­gel­i­cal aunt and un­cle to God’s Prom­ise, a re­li­gious ‘reed­u­ca­tion 18

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cen­tre’ spe­cial­is­ing in so-called gay con­ver­sion ther­apy.

A few months of hard work here, prom­ise the peo­ple who run it, and Cameron will be as straight as straight can be. Her ‘mise­d­u­ca­tion’ has be­gun.

What they want to rid her of, ex­plains the nice, smi­ley but hideously moustachioed Rev­erend Rick (John Gal­lagher Jr) is the ‘sin’ of so-called ‘SSA’ – Same Sex At­trac­tion. They like to pic­ture it, he goes on, as an ice­berg with most of the rea­sons for suc­cumb­ing to SSA lurk­ing unseen be­low the sur­face. Draw­ing and per­son­al­is­ing your own ice­berg is very much part of the ther­a­peu­tic process at the fiercely re­li­gious cen­tre, and ‘dis­ci­ples’ are en­cour­aged to fill them with their own rea­sons for ap­par­ently be­ing gay.

But while some in­mates cheer­ily fill theirs with ‘did too much sport with Dad’ and ‘didn’t get enough phys­i­cal af­fec­tion from Mom’ Cameron can’t think of any­thing to write. Par­tic­u­larly as her par­ents are dead. ‘Great!’ ex­claim her new friends, ‘write that down, they’ll love that.’ Ac­tu­ally, they put it a lit­tle more bluntly than that but you get the idea.

Akha­van, who co-adapts from Emily M Dan­forth’s novel as well as di­rects, gets the tone pretty much spot on. Watch­ing the deeply un­set­tling nar­ra­tive un­fold, it’s easy to take com­fort in the mis­taken be­lief that this is an Amer­i­can phe­nom­e­non that couldn’t hap­pen here. But it has and still does, although the Gov­ern­ment is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion to make such cour­ses il­le­gal.

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