Lonely souls are trapped in unsplendid isolation in Michael Mayer's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. Previously filmed by Sidney Lumet (1968), Yuli Karrasik (1972) and John J. Desmond (1975), this simmering 1896 study of aristocratic ennui affords stage specialist Mayer a chance to establish his screen credentials after his lacklustre start with A Home At the End of the World (2004) and Flicka (2006). Yet, while he opens out the action with a modicum of imagination, this is a fussy facsimile that wastes the efforts of an eager cast and misses much of the melancholic wit that makes Chekhov such an insightful and compassionate commentator on the human condition. 

Rushing from the stage of the Imperial Theatre in Moscow in 1904, actress Irina Arkadina (Annette Bening) travels by carriage with her beau, Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll), to the bedside of her ailing brother, Sorin (Brian Dennehy). Boris has brought a copy of the magazine containing a short story by Irina's son, Konstantin Trepylov (Billy Howle). But he is disappointed that Boris hasn't read it and leaves his mother playing bingo with Masha (Elisabeth Moss), Dr Sergei Dorn (Jon Tenney) and Polina (Mare Winningham), while he plays the piano in the next room. He is interrupted, however, by a knocking at the window and he looks up to see the strained face of Nina Zarechnaya (Saoirse Ronan). 

As we flashback two years, Nina and Konstantin are inseparable, as they prepare for a woodland performance of a shadow play he has written. Sorin watches his nephew tie a sheet between two trees and despairs of his sister chiding the maid for not having champagne on ice. He asks about Boris and Konstantin admits to being envious of his fame as a writer and his reputation as a ladies' man. However, he is blithely unaware that he is adored by Masha, who informs besotted schoolteacher Mikhail Medvedenko (Michael Zegen) that she is wearing black because she is in mourning for her life. 

Gathering in the clearing as darkness falls, the household looks on as Nina appears to declaim Konstantin's wordy prose, while shadow puppets dance on the backlit sheet. Masha watches an enraptured Konstantin mouthing along to the monologue before he loses patience with Irina's carping asides to Boris and Dorn and brings the pompously avant-garde performance to a sudden end. While he sulks in the stables, Irina returns to the house and lauds Nina for her talent. However, when she finds her alone with Boris in a quiet corner, she quickly intervenes and Nina decides to head home to her father (who is described by Dorn in a stage whisper as a monster for leaving his money to his second wife rather than his daughter). 

Masha has gone in search of the crestfallen Konstantin and finds him on the jetty chatting to Dorn. The doctor insists that he liked the play and wishes he could experience the thrill an artist must feel at the moment of creation. But he cannot prevent Konstantin from bawling at Masha for being Irina's lackey and she sobs on Dorn's shoulder, as she bemoans the pain of unrequited love and he admonishes her for the dirty habit of taking snuff. 

The next morning, Masha is tipsy at breakfast and Boris jots down notes to base a character on her in his next masterpiece. Irina tries to encourage Masha to smarten herself up and occupy her mind in order to recover her diminishing youth. Dorn panders to Irina's whim when she asks which of them looks younger and she continues to regale him of her beauty regimen when they go boating on the lake. When Nina joins them for lunch, Irina asks Masha's father, Shamrayev (Glenn Fleshler), to stop asking her about bygone actors because it makes her sound old. She also insists on giving the assembled a rendition of `Ochi chyornye' when someone asks Nina to sing for them. But, when she suggests going to Moscow and Shamrayev tries to explain that the horses are needed on the farm, Irina loses her temper and storms off to pack, while the estate manager tenders his resignation.

Unsettled by the commotion, Nina goes for a walk and is unimpressed when Konstantin shoots a seagull and throws it at her feet in a melodramatic gesture. He claims he will end his life because it has become so meaningless, but Nina is tired of his showboating and wishes he would stop playing the tormented artist. She accepts Boris's invitation to go for a row on the lake, but gets peevish when he declines to discuss his privileged lifestyle. Keen to keep her to himself, he takes her to an island and complains about the pressures placed on him to keep churning out stories. Nina sighs because Konstantin is forever agonising over his work. But, like his mother, he is furious that Nina and Boris are together and he hammers away at the piano, while ignoring Masha's attempts to speak to him in the same way she brushes aside the lovelorn Mikhail and Dorn resists mistress Polina's suggestion that she should leave Shamrayev and move in with him. 

On returning to shore, Nina finds the seagull on the jetty steps and Boris immediately scribbles down an idea for a story that thrills her because she is its heroine (even though she doesn't know he plans to give her a tragic end). A gunshot rings out and Irina rushes to find Konstantin with a head wound after failing to kill himself. She fusses over him, while Masha informs Boris over breakfast that she has decided to rip her love for Konstantin out of her heart by the roots and allow Mikhail to marry her. He patronises her and she snaps back that he is responsible for Konstantin's misery because he is jealous of both his literary success and the hold he exerts over Nina. 

Irina has also noticed this fatal attraction and is planning to whisk Boris back to the city when Sorin suffers a turn and has to be carried to his bed. He had been asking Irinia to give Konstantin some money to travel and he now suggests the same thing for his uncle, who has been rotting away on the estate for 20 years. Konstantin asks his mother to change his bandage and he enjoys having her undivided attention. However, she doesn't remember a childhood episode that had made an impression on him and Konstantin loses his temper when she refuses to send Boris away. They trade insults during a fierce argument that takes them into the forest, where Irina tries to make her son understand that she loves Boris and that he poses no threat to him as either a writer or a lover. 

But Boris has been touched by Nina giving him an engraved medallion and he asks Irina to let him go so he can experience real love for the first time. However, Irina isn't an actress for nothing and she sinks to her knees and pleads with Boris that he is the only thing preventing the last page of her life from ending badly and he is sufficiently flattered to abandon his country girl for his sophisticated woman. Nevertheless, he keeps a rendezvous with Nina, who assures him that she is coming to Moscow to try her luck as an actress and he promises to see her the moment she arrives. They kiss and Nina twirls around the upstairs room with naive delight. 

Two years later, however, she has returned home after enduring many trials and tribulations. Konstantin recaps them for Dorn, who is dismayed to hear that Boris abandoned her after their baby died and that he returned to Irina while Nina drew poor notices for grandiloquent performances in the provinces. As Irina and Boris arrive, we see again the frosty reception Konstantin affords them before Nina turns up at the door. He overhears Boris confiding that the critics find Konstantin's work derivative, while Irina admits that she has still to read a single word he has written. 

Nina tries to raise his spirits by congratulating him on fulfilling his ambition. But she succeeds only in making him more miserable by revealing that she still loves Boris, in spite of his callous treachery. So, when she disappears into the night claiming to have become the seagull whose wings he had clipped so thoughtlessly, Konstantin burns his papers and makes a proper job of committing suicide. Irina jumps on hearing the shot, but Dorn assures her that some chemicals have exploded in his bag and she tries to concentrate on the lotto game, as Dorn takes Boris into the library to help him deal with the mess he has caused. 

In drawing comparisons between life and melodrama, Chekhov intended this play to lampoon cheap imitations and expose those who persist in playing roles for which they have no talent. Unfortunately, Stephen Karam's often radical reworking and trimming of the four-act text only exposes the gulf between himself and Chekhov, while Mayer's direction often feels closer in tone to Woody Allen than Ingmar Bergman. 

Which is a shame, as there are moments when the pair unearth the bleak humour that makes the principals more worthy of pity than censure. Annette Bening is particularly affecting, as her vain, but ageing diva seeks to conceal her vulnerability with rapier quips, while Saoirse Ronan makes a harrowing transition from daydreaming ingenue to lost soul. Elisabeth Moss also impresses as the servant's daughter who continues to reach for the unattainable even after becoming a mother. 

The nature of their characters makes it difficult for the male leads to shine so brightly, as Billy Howle contributes an anachronistically modern and sometimes histrionic performance as the tortured Konstantin and Corey Stoll struggles to convey the hissably opportunistic Boris's fascinating charm. Yet, the ensemble works hard to offset the awkwardness of some of the interpolated dialogue, the calculation of Matthew J. Lloyd's camerawork, as he switches between jittery following shots and intrusive close-ups, and the brashness of Annette Davey's editing. However, they and clearly relish the setting (actually in upstate New York) and the costumes provided by Jane Musky and Ann Roth, while the score by Nico Muhly and Anton Sanko complements Mayer's laudable, but over-emphatic effort to let some light and air into this nest of gentlefolk..

No matter what she does in her estimable career, Glenn Close will never emerge entirely from the shadow of `bunny boiler' Alex Forrest in Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction (1987). She has earned other Best Actress nominations for Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Albert Nobbs (2011), as well as Best Supporting citations for The World According to Garp (1982), The Big Chill (1983) and The Natural (1984). Indeed, along with Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter, the 71 year-old Close holds the record for the most Oscar nods without a win. But, since having a ball as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians (1996) and 102 Dalmatians (2000), Close has made so many odd choices that her stock has rather slipped. Yet she remains one of the finest performers of her generation, as she ably demonstrates in snagging a Golden Globe nomination for Swede Björn Runge's The Wife, which has been adapted from a novel by Meg Wolitzer. 

In Connecticut in 1992, an anxious Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) snacks in the middle of the night. He wakes his wife, Joan (Glenn Close), and tries to cajole her into having sex to take his mind off the phone call he's awaiting. When it finally comes and Joe learns that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Joan listens on the extension with mixed feelings that carry over into a drinks party with friends and their children, the heavily pregnant Susannah (Alix Wilton Regan) and David (Max Irons), who is tetchy because his father hasn't yet read the short story he has sent him.

On the plane to Stockholm, the Castlemans are cornered by journalist Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), who is keen to write Joe's biography. However, Joe has no time for him and Joan reminds him that there's nothing more dangerous than a scorned writer. Arriving at the hotel, Joe is feted by the Nobel reception committee and photographer Linnea (Karin Franz Körlof), who will be accompanying him during his stay. Up in his room, Joe assures Joan that he is not attracted to Linnea (suggesting that he has strayed in the past) and chides David for being in such a sour mood. 

As she removes her watch to go to bed, Joan thinks back to when she (Annie Starke) first met Joe (Harry Lloyd), when he was her creative writing tutor at Smith College in 1958. He had been impressed by one of her stories and had asked her to babysit because his wife needed to let off some steam. But, even though she could sense he was a self-centred misogynist, Joan had been unable to prevent herself from falling in love with Joe and she remains devoted to him, even when he gets crumbs in his beard while telling interminable anecdotes at receptions and keeps flirting with Linnea. She had been snapping away after the Castlemans had been woken by a choir singing `Santa Lucia' in their hotel room and she looks on as Joan just about hides a wince as Joe introduces her as a non-writer to one of the scientific laureates.

David is also having a hard time dealing with the backhanded compliments that Joe pays to him in public. They argue in the car taking them to Joe's lecture and he storms off with some money borrowed from his mother. Joan asks Joe to be more supportive towards his son and he insists that he has to earn praise by writing something worthwhile. She also implores him not to thank her in his speech, as she doesn't appreciate being made to seem like the long-suffering spouse. As she thinks back, however, she realises that this is exactly what she has become and she reflects on meeting famous author Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern), who had told her that the men who run the American literary élite have no intention of allowing women to gatecrash their boys' club. 

Aware that she stole Joe from his first wife, Joan is alert to the signs that he is attracted to another woman. So, on waking to find he has not come to bed, she hastens down to the dining-room to see him quoting his favourite passage of James Joyce's The Dead to Linnea. She ticks him off for eating fatty food so late at night and rolls her eyes when he suggests that they slip away from all the fuss and get drunk in a cabin by a fjord. However, the idea of letting him swim alone for a while appeals and she sets off to explore the city.

In the hotel lobby, however, she is waylaid by Bone, who invites her for a drink in a nearby bar. Against her better judgement, Joan agrees and learns that he has been commissioned to write a warts`n'all biography of her husband. He admits that he knows about Joe's infidelities and tells Joan that he reckons they say more about his insecurity than her shortcomings as a mate. She is amused by his clumsy attempts to flirt with her and concedes that she is not proud of having enticed Joe away from his first wife and daughter. But, when Bone asks about the stories she published at Smith, Joan insists that she realised that she didn't have the personality to bolster her talent and that she recognised that she could be more valuable supporting Joe in his success than trying to cope with her own failure. 

Meanwhile, Joe has gone to a rehearsal of the prize-giving ceremony. He is teased by some of the scientists for being a fuddy-duddy, as he struggles to follow the simple instructions. But he feels faint and is recovering in a side room when Linnea comes to check up on him. She is about to kiss him when the alarm to remind him to take his pills sounds on his watch and she recoils. When he goes to sign her name on a walnut (a gambit that dates back to his Smith days), she gets embarrassed and hurries away, leaving him to pick up the nut from the floor and drop it in his pocket. 

Back at the bar, Bone mentions that he was surprised by the low standard of Joe's early stories and asks Joan if there is a reason why he improved so markedly as a writer after they met. She congratulates him on concocting such a far-fetched notion, but loses patience when he inquires why David is such an unhappy person. On returning to the hotel, Joan is badgered by Joe for going off alone and for smelling of cigarettes and alcohol. She finds the walnut with Linnea's name misspelt on the shell and they begin a blazing row that is abruptly ended by Susannah calling to tell them that they are grandparents. They talk to baby Max down the phone and hug each other, as they appreciate that, for all their problems, they have an enviably good life. 

They go for a drink with David, who gets mardy when Joe criticises his story. He explains that writing is a painful process and Joan nods quietly, as she harks back to New York in 1960, when she was an assistant at a publishing house looking for its next new writer. She had urged Joe to write The Walnut and had risked breaking up their relationship by being brutally honest in her assessment of his style. But she had also offered to fix the problems and they had bounced on the bed (as they would do on hearing the Nobel news) to celebrate the fact that their manuscript had been accepted for publication. 

While waiting for David on the night of the ceremony, Joe becomes twitchy and lambastes his son for smoking pot. He accuses him of trying to sabotage his big moment and David reveals that he had spoken to Bone, who had informed him that Joan had ghost-written every one of Joe's novels. She dismisses the theory as wild speculation. But Joe and Joan exchange glances as David asks why his mother spent so much time in his father's study when they were kids and he scoffs when Joe avers that she was proof-reading. However, they are clearly shaken and Joe reminds Joan that they are not bad people, as they drive to the ceremony. 

With Bone somehow sitting a couple of rows behind her, Joan looks on as Joe receives his medal from King Gustav (Nick Fletcher). She struggles to contain her emotions as she watches her husband take the adulation of the audience. But, when he credits her during his banquet speech with being his better half and thanks her for sparing him the tyranny of a blank page, Joan finally snaps. She resists his attempt to kiss her when he returns to the table and she shows him up in front of the monarch by storming out of the reception. 

In the car, she announces that she is leaving him because she is sick of playing such a demeaning role. He attempts to explain that he meant every word of his speech and tosses his medal out of the window when she refuses to accept it as her own. The chauffeur retrieves it and the Castlemans return to their hotel room. Joe pleads with Joan to calm down, but she lets the suppressed rage pour out and accuses him of being nothing more than a mediocre editor while she has allowed him to bask in her spotlight because she knows that the literary world would never have accepted her on her own terms. He argues that she had based her books on his life and that she had simply fleshed out his stories. But she reveals that each one had been spawned by one of his affairs and that she had built his reputation upon his flaws. 

As she starts packing, Joe tries to make her see reason by reminding her that their partnership has given her an idyllic life. He mentions their grandchild and how alone she will be when her friends start dying off. But, at that moment, he has a heart attack and Joan tells him that she still loves him as the medical team rush in and attempt to save him. On the plane home, the stewardess expresses her regrets at Joan's loss and claims that it was clear to see what a perfect couple they had made. Bone also offers his condolences. But Joan says she will sue him if his book does anything to reduce Joe's status. She promises David that she will tell him everything when they get home before she turns to a blank page in her notebook and looks beyond the camera, as though wondering how to write about this latest chapter in her life and, more to the point, how to ensure that it gets read. 

Several fictional films about the Nobel Prize have been thrillers centred around the ceremony. Among them are Mark Robson's The Prize (1963), Randall Miller's Nobel's Son (2007) and Peter Flinth's Nobel's Last Will (2013) and the suspense should have been just as unbearable in this exposure of a closely guarded secret. But Björn Runge and screenwriter Jane Anderson (who won an Emmy for her adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, 2014) reveal their hand far too early in the piece, with the result that they are unable to build any tension, as Joan Castleman draws ever closer to snapping. 

Recalling both Julie Kavner in Nora Ephron's This Is My Life (1992), which was also based on a Wolitzer novel, and Charlotte Rampling in Andrew Haigh's 45 Years (2015), Glenn Close delivers a performance of subtle intensity that is made all the more impressive by the fact that she spends so much of the story reacting with gracious poise to the careless words of her husband, their son and the various acolytes and liggers who latch on to them after the good news is announced. Yet, while she insists that she would prefer to be self-effacing, echoes of Alex Forrest rumble beneath the surface, as Joan is getting tired of being ignored.

Bearded and blowing hard in much the same way he did as another egotistical author in Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip (2014), Jonathan Pryce does what he can with the thankless part of the needy, guilt-ridden and clay-footed novelist, while Christian Slater connives to give his slimeball journalist a modicum of empathetic charm. But Max Irons is left as high and dry in the role of the embittered son as Harry Lloyd and Annie Starke (who is Close's daughter) are as the wholly unpersuasive younger versions Joe and Joan. 

Runge has a decent track record, thanks to outings like Daybreak (2003). Mouth to Mouth (2005) and Happy End (2011). But, while he often blocks the action to emphasise Joan's marginalisation in her husband's world, Runge directs this predictable saga with an old-fashioned stolidity that is rather exposed by the sudden shift to handheld jerkiness at the start of the climactic contretemps. Yet, for all the polished proficiency of Ulf Brantås's imagery, Mark Leese's production design and Jocelyn Pook's score, this is primarily an actors' showcase and Close, Pryce and Slater seize their opportunities in the standout scenes. But the fervency of these set-pieces merely serves to highlight the predictability of the overall scenario.

Apart from a couple of episodes of South Park and Family Guy and Justin Kelly's I Am Michael (2015), film-makers had felt no need to explore the theme of gay conversion therapy since Jamie Babbitt tackled it with such wit in But I'm a Cheerleader (1999). However, with Vice President Mike Pence vocally backing such Christian initiatives, two features on the topic are currently doing the rounds. Adapted from a memoir by Garrard Conley, Joel Edgerton's soon to be released Boy Erased stars Lucas Hedges as a 19 year-old who is forced into entering a correction programme by his parents, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. who is a small-town Baptist preacher. But the first to reach UK screens was Desiree Akhavan's take on Emily M. Danforth's bestseller, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which is now available to view across the range of home entertainment formats.

Having been caught by boyfriend Jamie (Dalton Harrod) canoodling with best friend Coley Taylor (Quinn Shephard) in the backseat of a car at the school dance, Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent to God's Promise in Montana in 1993 by her Aunt Ruth (Kerry Butler) in the hope that she can be cured of her sinful tendencies. Founded by Dr Lydia March (Jennifer Ehle), the boarding school employs the methods that she used to cure her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher, Jr.), of his homosexuality. He searches her luggage in the presence of roommate Erin Garrity (Emily Skeggs) and reminds her of the need to stick to the rules in her contract before welcoming her as a `disciple'. 

Spooked during the night, when Rick wakes her with a torch beam while she is dreaming about making out with Coley while watching Donna Deitch's Desert Hearts (1985), Cameron breakfasts with Erin, who points out classmates Mark (Owen Campbell), Helen Barberri (Melanie Ehrlich) and Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane), who rolls her tongue across her lips when Cameron looks at her. Erin confesses to a crush on Mark and reveals that Rick is dating their form teacher, Bethany (Marin Ireland), who is getting to know Cameron when Lydia enters the classroom to introduce herself and to chide Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) for letting his hair fall over his eyes. 

During a session with Lydia and Rick, he shows Cameron a drawing of an iceberg and invites her to list the issues beneath its tip that might have caused her to experience SSA (`same sex attraction'). Unable to think what to say, Cameron reads what Erin, Helen, Mark and Jane have written on their sheets (with their confessions being shown as cutaways). Jane (who was raised on a commune and has a prosthetic leg) catches her in her room and suggests that Cameron adds the fact that her parents were killed in a car crash on her iceberg. However, she drops her guard when Cameron reveals that she saw Jane and Adam smoking dope in the cellar and hints that she would like to join them. 

Despite Lydia's promptings, Cameron keeps her counsel in group sessions and is taken aback when the patrician Dane Bunsky (Christopher Dylan White) rips into Steve Cromps (Isaac Jin Solstein) and, without provocation, accuses her of being a `dyke'. However, she asks Rick about his experiences during a game of table tennis and he reveals that God saved him when he sent two members of his church to rescue him from a gay bar. She learns that Lydia used Rick as a guinea pig for her methods when she goes for a hike into the woods with Adam and Jane to tend the marijuana plants they are growing in a clearing. 

Rick takes the class on a trip to see a Christian rock band and Erin catches Cameron stealing a cassette in a bookshop. She wants to report the theft to Rick, even though Cameron returned the item to its shelf and she is only persuaded to let the matter drop when Mark intervenes. Back at God's Paradise, Helen is paired with Cameron during a trust session and she reveals that she was thrown out of a band for having feelings for another singer. When Cameron struggles to make a similar disclosure, Helen accuses her of not taking the therapy seriously and Erin urges Cameron to tell the group about Coley. Lydia wonders whether Cameron felt drawn to Coley because she wanted to be like her and reminds her that she will only benefit from the programme if she commits to it. 

That night, Cameron tries to masturbate while thinking of Jamie, but quickly gives up. While at a diner with the group, she slips away to phone Coley and learns that she has sent her a letter. Jane informs her that she hasn't qualified for mail privileges yet and she seems likely to be made to wait longer after Lydia catches her on a kitchen tabletop singing along to the 4 Non Blondes song, `What's Up?' However, she gives Cameron a box of correspondence that includes a confession from Coley that she had outed them rather than Jamie because she felt that Cameron had taken advantage of her friendship. 

Jane rips up the pink notepaper and tells Cameron to stay true to herself and not believe that she has let hormones get the better of her. Mark and Adam also support her, but Ruth insists that she has to stay at God's Promise when Cameron sneaks into the office and hides under the desk to phone home. Resigned to her fate, she starts doing aerobics with Erin, who has a video of a Christian exercise routine called `Blessercise' that she has been allowed to keep. Slowly, Cameron begins adding items to her iceberg and Lydia commends her on her new focus. However, she still has fantasies about kissing Bethany in class and responds when Erin seduces her in the middle of the night, only to return to her own bed in shame after bringing Cameron to orgasm. She claims she wants to get well and pleads with Cameron to say nothing about what has happened. 

Time passes and Cameron goes with the flow. But she is shocked when Mark challenges Lydia's authority during a session, after his father refuses to let him come home because he is still too effeminate. However, she is appalled to learn that he has attempted to mutilate his genitals during the night and, when Rick comes to offer one-to-one counselling, Cameron reduces him to tears by accusing him of having no idea what he is doing. When Mr Jacobs (Andre B. Blake) comes to conduct an inquiry, he asks Cameron if she trusts the staff. Yet, when she claims that they are inflicting emotional abuse by persuading students to hate themselves, Jacobs insists that he is not here to judge the facility's mission, but its pastoral competence. 

Stressed at having found Mark and unwittingly provided him with the razor, Adam persuades Jane and Cameron to cut and run. They get up early and tell Rick over breakfast that they are going on one of their regular hikes. Once in the woods, however, they change out of their uniforms and burn their icebergs on a bonfire. Once on the open road, they hitch a ride in the back of a pick-up truck sporting a Clinton-Gore campaign sticker and - in an echo of the closing scene in Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967) - they prepare to face together whatever a new future might hold. 

Markedly less satirically abrasive than Akhavan's bold debut, Appropriate Behavior (2014), this is a considered, but curiously uninvolving drama that seems content to tut at the God's Paradise rationale without subjecting it to forensic analysis. Similarly, Akhavan and co-scenarist Cecilia Frugiuele resist delving too deeply into Cameron's personality and past, with the result that she fails to become a fully rounded character, in spite of the deft efforts of the typically excellent Chloë Grace Moretz. Indeed, despite the measured performances of a solid ensemble - that includes Jennifer Ehle seemingly limning Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched from Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - few of the staff members or the other residents are presented as more than the ciphers sketched out in the iceberg flashback sequence.

Moreover, the writers steer clear of overtly demonising depictions of aversion therapies and focus instead on the recitation of prayers and fortune-cookie aphorisms. More positively, even though Erin and Helen repeatedly try to please their carers, Akhavan never shows Cameron, Jane or Adam questioning their sexuality. Such affirmation should encourage teenage viewers facing their own identity crises, but it removes the possibility for dramatic conflict and, thus, makes this more sincere than incisive. Indeed, it says much that the most provocative line in the entire film is delivered by Pastor Crawford (Steven Hauck) in the opening sequence: `Do you know what we as adults are doing in church every week? We’re trying to undo the things we did at your age.'

On the technical side, Akhavan directs with a detached steadiness that recalls Sean Durkin's handling of Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011). She is ably abetted in this regard by Ashley Connor's discrete camerawork and Sara Shaw's cadenced editing, while the mood is deftly reinforced by Markus Kirschner's interiors and a Julian Wass score that only occasionally errs into over-emphasis. Consequently, Akhavan prompts the audience to go looking for the nuances in her message, which proves a much subtler and shrewder approach than littering the action with fanatical practices and denunciatory monologues.