Film Review: Beach Rats

Cert: 15, 98 mins
3.5*

Beach Rats tells the story of Frankie, a 19-year old young man, living on the outskirts of Brooklyn, during an aimless and repetitive summer of beach hang-outs, handball courts, drug-taking, drinking, arcades, and boardwalk fireworks.

Whilst the director/writer, Eliza Hittman, set out to tell a story which was not about someone coming to terms with their sexuality, as per press release notes, at the surface, that is what the movie appears to show. It is a narrative that gay audiences would be familiar with, albeit in a different setting. It shows the conflicting behaviours and feelings of its main character, through the tension between the two worlds he is trying to inhabit: a world of delinquency, hyper-masculinity, and heteronormativity with his friends and on-and-off girlfriend; and a world of online flirting and teasing, outdoors sex with men, and unchartered sexuality. Inevitably, these two worlds collide in a series of events which lead Frankie to a place of reckoning with his inner world.

In spite of the habitual narrative, the strengths of Beach Rats are the main actors and its director. Madeline Weinstein as the girlfriend, and Kate Hodge as the mother, provide great authenticity and three-dimensional insight to the women in Frankie’s life. Harris Dickinson, as the lead, and a London native, masterfully and intensely shows us the inner and outer conflicts of his character, through action and behaviour, rather than words. The emphasis on visual and emotive story-telling makes Frankie’s inarticulation all the more powerful and intimate as he navigates the worlds of hyper-masculinity with toxic influences, and of gay sex and dating without any role models.

It is important to note the direction and writing by Eliza Hittman, which offered a distinct quality of focus and intimacy, drawing this audience member more towards the emotional world of Frankie, rather than its physicality, even during the film’s sex scenes.

And even though Beach Rats may be a narrative that most of us in the LGBTQ+ community are familiar with, perhaps the relevance is in the fact that these stories are both old and new, as millions of people around the world still face these challenges, conflicts, and tensions, and therefore this film is not simply an artistic statement, but also a reminder of the daily work this community still needs to do.

Beach Rats is now showing in cinemas.

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© RCValadas 2017

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