Beach Rats – A Quiet Yet Effective Coming of Age Drama (Guest Review)

Well, it’s hard to believe, but in just over one week I’ll be back in Halifax, NS for the 37th edition of the Atlantic International Film Festival. I will be seeing 20+ films during my time at the festival this year and I simply can’t wait to be back in Halifax for another week of great films. There are some incredible looking movies in the lineup this year and I can’t wait to begin watching.

Synopsis: Frankie, an aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn, is having a miserable summer. With his father dying and his mother wanting him to find a girlfriend, Frankie escapes by causing trouble with his delinquent friends and flirting with older men online. As his chatting and webcamming intensify, Frankie simultaneously enters into a cautious relationship with a young woman. Inevitably, Frankie’s struggle to reconcile his competing desires lead to irreparable consequences. (Mongrel Media)

Starring:  Harris DickinsonMadeline Weinstein, and Kate Hodge

Writer: Eliza Hittman

Director: Eliza Hittman

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (USA)

Running Time: 95 minutes

Trailer:

For showtimes and more, check out Beach Rats on movietimes.com.

Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats” grabs you from its very opening shot and it doesn’t let go until the inevitable fade to black. Writer/Director Eliza Hittman provides some dark, gloomy and really quite engaging material here and she’s not afraid to tackle the mature subject matter at hand either. There are long takes of male/female nudity, drug use and even some ‘ballsy’ sex scenes throughout the film and she showcases the material fearlessly. What’s most admirable, about her take, however, is that she just tells her story, she doesn’t preach or provide a right/wrong side to any of it – she just presents the material as it is.

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This is only her second feature film to date – following: 2013’s “It Felt like Love” but already she feels like a talent worth watching – she isn’t afraid to let shots linger or to showcase the harsh reality of a situation and that’s admirable.  Although what we’re watching in “Beach Rats” feels very personal and like something we shouldn’t even be seeing. Hittman along with cinematographer Hélène Louvart, and editors Scott Cummings & Joe Murph grab all of your senses and make it incredibly hard to look away from the screen at any given time.

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The majority of the performances here come from a set of nobodys, making them even more impressive. Most impressive is our lead, Harris Dickinson, who delivers an emotionally raw yet quiet performance as Frankie – a closeted teen frantically trying to hide his double life from his family and friends. Dickinson’s facial expressions alone conveyed so much emotion here. As this is a character that keeps so much hidden from friends and family there are few deep and meaningful conversations and very emotional moments all comimg from Dickinson’s quick glances, facial expressions and just the painful looks in his eyes as he struggles to find his way. It’s remarkable that he can say so little but so much at the same time. This is sure to be the film that launches his career into unthinkable heights.  The rest of the cast are great here too – so much so that you forget that what you’re watching isn’t real but nobody comes anywhere close to Dickinson’s extraordinary performance here.

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This film won Eliza the Directing Prize at Sundance back in January and she was definitely more than deserving of the prize. People should give this one a chance as it’s unfortunate to see the underwhelming box-office results so far. Some people could take offense to its subject matter but it should be commended for its handling of such material.

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In Conclusion/My Verdict: 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars – Raw, Gripping and beautifully acted, “Beach Rats” really snuck up on me as one of my favorite films of 2017 (so far). From the impressive acting to the bold directing to the sharp editing and striking cinematography – there’s lots to impress here. This film grabs you from the very opening scene and it doesn’t let go until the very last.  It handles some mature subject matter and themes but with no preaching from anyone involved.  Eliza Hittman is definitely a director to watch in the future.  Likewise, young Harris Dickinson is a star in the making and we will surely be seeing more from him soon.

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