On the outskirts of Brooklyn, Frankie, an aimless teenager, suffocates under the oppressive glare cast by his family and a toxic group of delinquent friends. Struggling with his own identity, Frankie begins to scour hookup sites for older men. When his chatting and webcamming intensify, he begins meeting men at a nearby cruising beach while simultaneously entering into a cautious relationship with a young woman. As Frankie struggles to reconcile his competing desires, his decisions leave him hurtling toward irreparable consequences.
Director: Eliza Hittman
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge
Review: Unfolding over a single lazy summer in modern-day Brooklyn, this salty spin on the “coming out” drama offers a brutally unreserved look at masculinity and punch-drunk sexual awakening. Director Eliza Hittman is content to let her film marinate in its own ambiguity, but she’s also unflinching in her approach to its darker themes. Dickinson’s often-wordless debut performance is a marvel in itself; his boyish uncertainty is quietly affecting, and when he explodes with sudden aggression, Hittman pushes her camera close to capture every tortured twitch. Playing like a brooding younger brother to 2016’s Moonlight, Beach Rats may alienate some viewers with its willingness to dangle unanswered questions, but as a sun-drenched character study, it proves both robust and lingering.
Verdict: Worth the Artsy Popcorn. It’s a slow burn and not for everyone.