Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA,, Screenplay by Desiree Akhavan, , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by , Cecilia Frugiuele, , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by
A teenager () who has just graduated from high school is sent to a religious camp after her prom date finds her getting intimate with her female best friend in the back seat of a car. The outdoorsy education she has been sent to is run by a conservative religious therapist ( ) and her brother ( ), who claims to have been freed from the sin of homosexuality and promises the same for the kids who attend their camp. Moretz is careful to keep her eyeroll-level mystification at the nonsense she is surrounded by to herself at first, but when she makes a few friends (played with great charm by and ), surviving the place turns out to not be enough, especially not when a fellow inmate is pushed to a devastating act in his own effort to make sense of the place. While most films about people who are intolerant for religious reasons get it wrong by portraying such characters as deluded zealots, this one, among the many things it gets so right, does a superb job of accurately presenting the camp leaders as people whose clear conviction actually makes them confident, crafty and, most terrifying of all, convincing; these folks wouldn’t bat an eye if you asked them to bake a gay wedding cake, they would instead convince you to be sorry you ever wanted to eat. Ehle, playing her insidious character with no obvious guile, presents a characterization familiar to anyone who ever had a religious educational upbringing, undercutting Moretz’s broader sense of self so that her sexual identity, flimsy as it is at that age, can be easily brushed aside as can everything else she believes about herself. It’s not just a successful film thematically, though, as Desiree Akhavan’s superb direction emphasizes quiet, tense moments that hurt almost as much as the more dramatic turns of plot, always keeping the story moving forward with the right pieces of information to keep the process flowing. The experience benefits greatly from Moretz in the lead, who has never been more compelling or effective; here the young actor who has been on screens big and small since childhood really breaks into adult territory with her subtle and compelling layers of both fear and sarcasm (her wordless reaction to another kid at camp calling her a dyke is the perfect example of the talented hands we’re in here).