Directed By: Desiree Ahkavan
Written By: Desiree Ahkavan & Cecilia Frugiuele
Based On The Novel By: Emily M. Danforth
Cinematography By: Ashley Connor
Editor: Sara Shaw
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr., Marin Ireland, Emily Skeggs, Quinn Shephard, Dalton Harrod, Forrest Goodluck
In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.
This Is the second feature film directed by Desiree and written by her based on the novel.
Here she makes a moving film that stays rather grounded and unemotional for the most part while making it’s Presence felt. Not as personal as her first film but definitely shows caring. She is a filmmaker to keep your eye on as she definitely has an eye and a heart when it comes to her films. Where she keeps getting better and showcasing more talent and confidence with each film.
What is amazing about this film is that it tackles a subject but doesn’t beat you across the head with it’s opinion nor does it sensationalize and let the subject at the core take over. The film has it’s opinions but stays with the characters and their truths. So that it doesn’t feel lost in it’s ideals it just tells it’s story.
This film feels more Lived in then most. It feels identifiable even if just for the non glamorous atmosphere and touches. It’s stays a bit mundane as it moves along and doesn’t have an excitement to it. Though it is still moving.
One of the more sympathetic characters is actually the center’s leaders gay brother who is a counselor. Who seems like a normal kind and ok guy who is here more because both it seems his religion is forcing him saying his urges are wrong and his sister. Who is so convinced that homosexuality is wrong and can be cured. Even though neither is a credited psychologist. Nor is there any proven method.
Though the film kind of shows that the law is choosing not to do anything about it either. As later when investigating an incident they just want to be sure that what happened was by the victims own hand and they let it be known they have no problem with what the school or center is doing.
The characters are so compelling that some could be the main characters of their own films. Though a reason for that might be because Cameron in this film is so quiet and passive. Even Chloe Grace Moretz performance seems more withdrawn though headstrong physically. That really we only know about her through being around the other characters and flashbacks to her past. This might be done on purpose as the audience is finding this world and experiencing it through her eyes. So everything is fresh and new and she is trying to decide who to let in and if she truly feels what she did Is wrong or is she just trying to get by.
It’s nice to see Sasha lane in the film but as a fellow student forced there she seems more to be the rebellious friend sidekick more than anything. As her performance never feels personal or emotional. That seems to be the way it was written as always she seems more natural then anything. As persisted by her roommate who seems to be following her plan on the straight and narrow but you can see the cracks and the way she ties to vindicate her interests that can be frowned upon. Not to mention how conflicted she is. She is almost Bulimic sexually. As she resists her urges and then binges when she gets the chance and kind of builds up her addiction with distractions like exercise but into watching a certain video of an woman in a shiny short workout outfit. Though we get to know more and be affected by her in fewer scenes then we get to know Cameron’s friends and confidantes.
Jennifer Ehle plays the villainous role strongly as he doesn’t see herself as wrong but in her mission of grace. She fails to see how she is damaging and punishing these kids by filling them with doubt and a kind of self hatred. As she is never outright cruel but definitely grueling.
The most moving scene is when a character is denied coming home and breaks down as they are confused as to what is right and what can they do to be accepted and seen as right in their parents and their own eyes. Challenging the system and school.
What is frustrating is that whole the film has an ending it feels like nothing is solved. No revelations. It is more like life in the end one situation is over and now they are moving on and forward but who knows into what? Which is a fine ending but as we have grown close to these characters we want a kind of happy closure or some kind of meaning. As it all seems so abrupt.