christina’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was around 9 when I first started seeing gay kisses on television. Whenever there was one onscreen, my dad would cover his eyes. Eventually I started to do the same, despite the fact that I noticed my breath getting heavier and my heart beating faster whenever I saw two girls kissing. I was around 12 the first time someone asked me if I was gay. It was nothing to her, just another stupid joke thrown around at the lunch table. But I couldn’t help wondering how she knew before I fully did. I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad covering his eyes.
When you’re growing up with the knowledge stuffed in the back of your mind that you’re different, you’re conditioned to hate yourself. It’s not always purposeful conditioning. It’s present in people’s casual usage of slurs, in their brisk comments, in the glare of the images on television. While the conversion therapy camp that Cameron attends is certainly a purposeful type of conditioning, it’s much more subtle than you would think. The teenagers aren’t beaten. They aren’t starved. They suffer from a restrained type of emotional abuse, the kind that all queer youth are subjected to in varying waves.
Cameron, portrayed beautifully by Chloe Grace Moretz in her best performance to date, is forced into a situation where she has to confront herself and the religious ideologies she is surrounded by. The story revels in both the sheer sorrow and hilarity of telling Cameron to deny how she is meant to exist. There is a balance between making light of her circumstances and exploring the emotional wounds that they leave that is executed with thoughtful ease by bisexual writer and director Desiree Akhavan. It shows that a queer woman was at the helm of this story. It’s in the care for Cameron’s emotional journey, the humble realism of the sex scenes between Cameron and her friend from home, and the depiction of finding a community of people who remind you that you’re not alien.
Scenes where Cameron is with her friends, fellow campers Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck) are amongst the most powerful in the film for their depiction of queer unity. Despite their environment invalidating them at every turn, they have a safe space with each other. They find resilience within each other, the kind that they only mustered because they told each that they could. Their jokes about the rampant homophobia they’re surrounded by are so reminiscent of the ways in which LGBT youth have always joked with one another in order to numb their discomfort and confusion.
As the film comes to a near perfect closing with Cameron, Jane, and Adam leaning on one another it becomes especially clear to them. They weren’t sick until they arrived at a place that attempted to alter their most pure nature. And together, they decide that they’re going to heal.