Published on November 24th, 2017 | by voxx0
Out: 24 November
Length: 98 minutes
Director: Eliza Hittman
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Neal Huff
Plot:19-year-old Frankie (Dickinson) spends his time balancing between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend (Weinstein) and searching online for older men to meet.
Writer/Director Eliza Hittman’s second feature is a corker. After her recreational directorial debut ‘It Felt Like Love’, about the complexity of a young woman’s life struggling to get to terms with trying to fit in with the life of an older guy, in ‘Beach Rats’ she shifts her focus to Frankie (Dickinson), a young adolescent boy balancing his time between his home life, his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend and searching online for older men to meet and possibly hang out with.
There is a plot, sort of, but the plot isn’t the real feature here. She sets the film around a tone-poem, an ever changing collage of mood and atmosphere set in the glamorous coloured back lights of his Coney Island neighbourhood, which is the domain hang out point for him and his friends. At home his life is bleak; his mother (Hodge) always wonders where he goes at night and during the day she worries that he doesn’t do anything apart from hang out with his friends and go online. He’s afraid to tell her what’s really going on in his mind, as he struggles to come to terms with his identity and discover if he is homosexual or heterosexual. “I don’t know what I like,” he says, and this brings difficulty to his home life as his family don’t know who he is either. Obviously, top marks go to Hittman’s beautiful direction as she deceptively spirals around this domain core throughout most of the 98 minute runtime, offering a uniquely toned sad character study of a young man’s life of self discovery.
But it’s the bare essentials where the film is at its best; it’s here when she lets Dickinson’s true side come out on screen. Throughout he’s always afraid to show emotion yet in a beautiful moment of gut-wrenching hurt he belts it out, leaving you feel for him. However, at other times his deceptively blank face matched with Hélène Louvart’s idyllically natural cinematography tells a story which is far more informed in Frankie’s mood rather than the events around him, giving the film it’s golden crown.
‘Beach Rats’ is an almost dreamlike merge of perhaps ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and ‘Moonlight’, as it steps into questions of self-discovery. Yet Hittman successfully merges these two examples and yet never steps into familiar territory; she keeps it grounded from going too far away from the bearings she places in the first few minutes. Both Dickinson’s sensational performance and Hittman’s beautiful direction help keep the story feeling all too real. Demonstrating a sure hand throughout, making her a filmmaker whose future work will be hotly anticipated, we cannot wait to see what she does next.
VERDICT: Anxious, empathetic and sensationally acted, Hittman draws a clever, clear-eyed look into the captivatingly vital power of self-discovery that will stay with you forever.
- By Corey Denford