In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.
When teenager Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught by her boyfriend getting it on with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard) at prom, all hell breaks loose. For her anyway. Her concerned older sister packs her off to religious camp God’s Promise to attend a program designed to convert her back to the only acceptable sexuality in God’s eyes.
Here she meets a rag-tag bunch of like-minded kids at varying degrees of their therapy. Luckily for her she is able to bond with two fellow cynics, Jane Fonda (American Honey’s Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), who make her time there more bearable. Run by ex-homosexual Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and his formidable sister, Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) – the camp expects each guest to adhere to a strict set of rules. The more they co-operate, however, the more privileges they’ll earn.
They’re each also required to fill in a personal ‘iceberg’ – e.g. a basic diagram of what’s going on beneath the surface, and what could possibly be part of the reason for their SSA (Same Sex Attraction). It’s a bad, no-good place to be basically and even worse when you consider that teens are still sent to conversion camps today.
Cameron struggles with the ‘punishment’ she’s received and is later forced to deal with the concept of guilt as Coley suggests she took advantage of their friendship.
On the sidelines we also meet Cameron’s hopeful roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs), musical Helen (Melanie Ehrlich) and Mark (Owen Campbell), who will break your heart in two. Genuinely, it’s very hard to watch any kid go through what these children do but especially when they’re warm and kind like Mark. His arc is hard to stomach and devastating for all involved. And it will make you mad as it should rightly do.
Thankfully, we get a feel-good ending and I’m down with that. One thing to note is how lovely this movie looks – it almost makes God’s Promise look like a pleasant holiday destination. Directed by the brilliantly talented Desiree Akhavan, it also illustrates Cameron’s flashbacks with proper sex scenes which are beautiful and real, something you don’t always see, particularly between two women. It’s not gratuitous, it’s more a visual ode to the beauty of women and the appreciation of them on the whole.
I love the characters, I love the dialogue and I really enjoy the scene in which Cameron gets up on the kitchen counter to do a rendition of 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Going On. As part of the new wave of gay movies we’ve been getting over the last couple of years, TMOCP holds its head up high and sticks two fingers up at ‘convention’ at the same time. Well worth a look.