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The Miseducation Of Cameron Post ★★★★★

Cameron Post should be required reading for teens and adults alike.



Released: 7th September 2018

Directed By: Desiree Akhavan

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck

Reviewed By: Rhys Handley

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that grown-ups trying to make movies that appeal to teens just don’t ‘get it’. It’s also an oft-maligned cliché that movies about ‘issues’ are mawkish Oscar bait, usually made by people who have not directly experienced those issues themselves.

Amid something of an active reaction against the archetypal Teen Movie, director Desiree Akhavan has in fact created in The Miseducation of Cameron Post one of the age-old genre’s very finest entries, brimming with the charm and optimism of the best John Hughes, but imbued with the weight and responsibility of honestly portraying the queer experience in the face of conservative Christian America.

Deftly balancing these opposing goals, Akhavan presents an earnest and lived-in tale of the titular Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), a Montana teen caught making out with a female classmate at prom. Publicly outed just at the outset of exploring her sexuality, Cameron is sent off to the God’s Promise camp for gay conversion therapy. It’s the makings of a cynical, overwrought sob factory, but Akhavan and the stellar cast and creators she assembles instead have crafted a sincere gem.

Originating from Emily M. Danforth’s novel of the same name, Cameron herself is in many ways a quintessential YA protagonist – sharp and curious, yet melancholy and introspective, but she transcends the trope thanks to a humble, adept performance by Moretz, playing in more nuanced territory than perhaps Kick Ass or the Carrie remake could allow, backed up by Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele’s gentle, considerate screenplay. Cameron’s arc as a queer woman tentatively coming of age could only have been scribed by authors who have lived it themselves.

In that sense, the film does not play like typical awards season fair, when queer narratives are portrayed for the educational and voyeuristic benefit of a mainstream audience. Akhavan’s film is very much not tailored to appease the straight default, but is instead aimed squarely at teenagers, and more specifically queer teenagers, addressing them directly – it could serve as an invaluable touchstone for young people all over the world wrestling with uncertainties about their relationships to sex, gender and each other. The way it portrays sex alone is notable in its lack of gratuity and its commitment to subjectivity – with an understanding gaze rather than an exploitative one.

While one might hope we’ve come far enough that today’s teens won’t have to contend with reaction to their explorations of identity and orientation as harsh as the conversion camps and hardline prejudice that Cameron and her fellow campers must face, it’s obvious that those toxic attitudes still permeate the modern world, sometimes in the same explicit ways, but often through subtler, more underhand means. Akhavan’s film seems to say to that kid in the audience, “I see you, and I get it”.

Though Cameron Post often sets itself up against banality and expectation, the way it leans into a humanistic, empathetic strain of the YA genre – see also Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird from February – makes it imminently appealing to its audience. As a setting, God’s Promise is like a warped, real-world analogue for Hogwarts in its construction. Cameron finds herself surrounded by young people confronting similar, yet uniquely personal, torments to her own, hounded by a cast of distinct and variously likeable or dislikable figures of authority – John Gallagher, Jr. is devastating as ‘ex-gay’ Reverend Rick, while Jennifer Ehle’s Dr. Lydia is at once tender and nauseating as the ultimate authority in the camp.

Cameron’s contemporaries are all packed with clear, winning personality, and an excellent young ensemble cast (Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, et al.) all takes turns in stealing the screen. The portrayal of all characters, however convinced or not by God’s Promise they may be, is considerate and delicate – no one is ever mocked or torn down needlessly. There is even space to goof around, as teens do, with tabletop dancing and cheesy 90s karaoke between sermons and reeducation sessions.

Akhavan does not romanticise the camp whatsoever, but she also does not deny its residents glimmers of honest joy between battles with identity and faith. Its politics are incredibly sophisticated – condemning the horrific philosophy behind the camp without vilifying the devout believers who earnestly think it is the right way to deal with queerness.

In the end, it’s the many directions in which Akhavan pulls Cameron Post, and the grace with which she ties those threads together, that makes for a movie that bursts forward with charm and generosity, providing solace, guidance and recognition for queer teens, while confronting head-on the toxicity that comes forth when people close themselves off from other perspectives.

Cameron Post should be required reading for teens and adults alike. It could change minds, but it could also save lives. It ‘gets it’. 

London-based journalist moonlighting as flailing amateur film critic. Waiting for Greta Gerwig and Barry Jenkins to team up and save the world. Terrified of inevitable Star Wars over-saturation. Proud Yorkshire kid.

Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Colette

Colette can feel a tad velvety at times but is lifted by Keira Knightley’s sensual performance and liberating battle that painfully resonates today.



Director: Wash Westmoreland

Stars: Keira Knightley, Dominic West

Released: London Film Festival 2018

Born in 19th century France, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette wrote more than 80 volumes depicting her childhood, her life, her pains and pleasures. Her writings were sensual, vivid and all published under her husband name, “Willy”.

No stranger to female-centric stories, Wash Westmoreland follows up on “Still Alice” and “Echo Park, L.A.” with this dazzling period biopic starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West.

The film starts, the young country girl, Colette (Knightley), marries writer and critic Henri Gauthier-Villars (“Willy”) who introduces her to Parisian salons. Willy soon finds himself in debts and is desperate enough to seek his wife’s help. She will write. Colette writes what she knows and her first novella, “Claudine à l’école” (Claudine at school) is a success. Willy forces her to write the next ones, locked in a golden cage, to ensure his fame and success.

The settings are sumptuous and we gladly follow the camera through the stunning but confined Parisian apartments where the outside light only comes through when she feels inspired. Costumes evolve, as Colette, from heavy and restricted dresses to wild and daring clothing as if Mademoiselle Chanel had designed them herself.

Colette finally loosens from her husband and experiments with woman, society and dancing, feeding her inspiration. Forced and uncredited, Colette cannot enjoy writing and runs off to perform in the music-hall in her own name. In like most biopics, we go from one key event to another, regrettably quickly and often without knowing how we got there. Willy’s sudden appointment of his wife is left as unexplained as the abrupt ending that could have potentially seen Colette, a happy writer.

In the second part of the film Westmoreland seems more interested in looking at the awakening of a young woman rather than at the birth of an author whereas Keira Knightley shines in the lead role. Often known for playing the innocent and rebellious youth, Knightley still pulls off the young Colette in the first part of the film but is at her best when she evolves into a mature woman, aware of own desires. The best scenes of the film come when Colette is free and herself, usually in the company of other woman, particularly the terribly charming Missy (Denise Gough). Westmoreland multiplies two shots and close ups and creates impactful intimate scenes but regrettably gives up on them too fast.

It is a change to see a character such as “Willy” that is both ridiculous and loving. This duality creates, perhaps, a more truthful relationship between the two. No one is born an artist and behind every writer there is an intuitive editor (and in 20th century France, who else could it be than a man?). For Westmoreland if there is no Claudine without Colette, there would have been no Colette without Willy.

With its lavish setting and jumping plot, Colette can feel a tad velvety at times but is lifted by Keira Knightley’s sensual performance and liberating battle that painfully resonates today.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – If Beale Street Could Talk



Beale Street Movie Marker

Released: 8th February 2019

Directed By: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

In his entrancing and eventual Best Picture Oscar winner ‘Moonlight’, it was the longing to be authentic. To be accepted in an often volatile environment that powered its narrative.

Clearly in this pitch-perfect adaptation of the James Baldwin novel, director Barry Jenkins is consumed with longing of a different kind that is just as potent. Justice. An eradication of the infuriating systemic abuse of law and power against black people in America, that sees this luminous love story in 1970’s Harlem, strike modern-day parallels with our own divided, morally skewed society.

An incandescent portrayal of young romance. The tenderness, respect and sheer revolve that underpins the relationship between Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) will leave you spellbound from the outset, as their lives are soon mired in despair. The rapturous joy of new life as Tish falls pregnant, backed up by the triple threat of mom Sharon (Regina King), dad Joseph (Colman Domingo) and sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris). Quickly cancelled out by the malice of Fonny’s staunchly religious family and a false yet potentially devastating rape allegation made against him, as they scramble to prove his innocence.

Punctuated by Kiki Layne’s wholesome narration and an overwhelmingly beautiful Nicholas Brittell score that i would be content listening to for days on end. Jenkins exchanges the melancholic blues of his previous effort for a broader but no less lush visual palette, with its exquisite interiors and classy costume design almost serving as a rainbow for the tears that have streamed down their faces through such hardship, but their spirit and love continues to illuminate their gritty surroundings. Whether it be lingering close-ups of sweet embrace or deep sorrow. Its director doesn’t flinch for a second in conveying the simmering emotions on display and in doing so, leaves you completely transfixed by his tactful approach to the source material.

There is a raw resilient energy that permeates throughout its central romance. Kiki Layne’s Tish serves as the remarkably understated, calming influence to Stephan James’ broken-hearted prisoner, a slave to a corrupt system with a searing monologue by Fonny’s dear friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry) reinforcing the pain inflicted. Through it all, their hopeful adoring looks and stifling intimacy simply captivate. In Regina King’s marvellous mother figure, she peppers the film with considerable candour, armed with dialogue that pierces your soul. Whilst Jenkins leaves enough room for inspired cameos that are best left a secret, which gorgeously represent a sense of community and a progression in attitude, that defies the period.

A steady panning shot as Fonny smokes may seem throwaway. In this case, it is awfully fitting to articulate the finesse of its director. Lose yourself in the mesmeric haze of ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’.

A lyrical experience that reminds you of the poetic power cinema can truly possess. His love for the art form brought him here. On this form. Trust Barry Jenkins to go all the way.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Stan & Ollie



Stan and Ollie Rating Movie Marker

Released: 11th January 2019

Directed By: Jon S Baird

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C.Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Products of classic Hollywood whose superior slapstick routines triggered endless laughter from their legion of fans, propelling them to legendary status. The sheer physicality and comedic prowess displayed by the English/American duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, still puts many modern-day efforts to shame.

But like so many comedians, there is a tragic element to their careers that contradicts their profession. Through this solid biopic by Filth director Jon S. Baird, it looks to give us a poignant insight into the duo’s grueling twilight years.

Their popularity slowly dwindling. Their bones creaking. Whether on the big screen or the stage, Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Hardy (John C.Reilly) are suddenly not the hottest ticket in town in the early 1950’s. Lumbered with Rufus Jones’ Bernard Delfont, a wisecracking promoter who seems more invested in the likes of Norman Wisdom, they look to reignite interest with a lengthy theatre tour and a long-gestating film project. Yet with audiences middling, contract negotiations stalling and the workload far beyond what was expected, it puts a significant strain on the health and friendship of these two towering talents.

Inevitably with its story, you would expect ‘Stan & Ollie’ to be assured in its abilities to make you laugh. However much of the first half feels surprisingly stilted as Coogan and C.Reilly throw themselves into the pair’s much-beloved routines, with regular cutbacks to their adoring audiences. For the uninitiated, it may initially make you wonder what the fuss was about. Thankfully as the film’s supporting players are introduced to spar with our central characters, it finds a more consistent comedic rhythm, neatly intertwining with the film’s simmering emotion.

Whilst it’s undoubtedly a few visual flourishes away from being a formulaic BBC Christmas special. The admiration of S.Baird for Laurel & Hardy certainly shines through in its refined production, beginning with an exquisite tracking shot on a studio lot as he works his way through the duo’s masterful mischief with fondness.

The rapport between John C.Reilly and Steve Coogan anchors proceedings wonderfully, skilfully capturing the mannerisms and effectively articulating how dependent they are of each other, despite their ongoing disputes. In C.Reilly’s Ollie, his fully-fleshed turn pierces through the fat suit he wears, whose willingness to perform despite failing health is soul-stirring. Whilst the relentless nature of Coogan’s Stan, as he looks to churn out the material strong enough to breathe new life into their double act, makes for compelling viewing. The real danger posed however, is that the film’s main attraction are nearly upstaged by their witty wives, with Shirley Henderson’s Lucille and Nina Arianda’s Ida threatening to steal every scene they grace.

Entertaining enough to gently applaud. Yet perhaps not an act that quite raises the roof. ‘Stan and Ollie’ coasts by on its endearing nostalgic charm and committed performances.

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