Writer-director Eliza Hittman gives this coming-of-age drama a delicate touch
A Brooklyn teenager explores his sexuality in “Beach Rats,” a warm, empathetic coming-of-age drama from writer-director Eliza Hittman.
Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is caught between two worlds. At night, he cruises Coney Island with his group of pals, picking up girls and doing drugs, but always fixing his eye elsewhere. Later at night, he visits chat rooms and talks to men online. When one of them asks him what he’s looking for, Frankie isn’t sure. “I don’t really know what I like,” he says.
“Beach Rats” lets him try to find his way. For a while, he sees Simone (Madeline Weinstein), a neighborhood girl who shows an interest in him. When he casually asks her what she thinks about two guys kissing, she winces. “It’s just gay,” she says. It’s not the answer he was looking for.
His group of friends — tank top-clad shore types — are similarly disapproving. When Frankie shows them the chat room he visits, they giggle, and he pretends he only goes there to score weed.
Meanwhile, Frankie has a series of secret affairs with guys he meets up with, but is too scared to form a real connection with anyone. His encounters amount to transactions of meaningless sex, but Frankie is looking for more, and wants to know what he wants within himself.
Hittman paints with a delicate brush, and gets a strong performance out of newcomer Dickinson, who gives Frankie a soft soul beneath his chiseled physique. He’s looking for acceptance, not only from those around him, but from himself. Hittman doesn’t give him — or the audience — any short cuts, but her sensitivity and compassion for his situation shines through.
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Running time: 98 minutes