After a successful debut with It Felt Like Love, writer-director Eliza Hittman brings to the screen Beach Rats. She partners with Director of Photography Hélène Louvart to tell the story of a sexually confused teenage boy who finds himself lost in a world where there is no “coming out”. (KIZJ: 4/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Katusha Jin
Hittman explains “Beach Rat” as a colloquial term for a certain type of youth, who often come from broken families and who are misguided by drugs and alcohol. They attend local firework displays on the weekends and spend most of their time around the sandy coast. This story follows “Frankie” (Harris Dickinson), who meanders between three social spheres he tries to keep separate: his barely functioning family, his ‘beach rat’ friends, and his relationship with himself.
The movie begins with flashes of Frankie, a teenage boy, taking topless photos in a mirror. The audience feels a sense of pity and understanding as each flash shows a different angle of his body, which begs for approval and proof of his masculinity. Whilst each part of his life seems to be crumbling, he scours the Internet to fulfill his desires and cravings of feeling wanted.
Although he has a bedroom upstairs, Frankie chooses to hide away in the basement as he explores his sexuality through the Internet and his girlfriend, “Simone” (MadelineWeinstein). We see him act impulsively and dangerously so many times as he yearns for acceptance, whilst simultaneously fearing the embarrassment that his secret explorations could lead to. Hittman portrays Frankie as a young boy who tries hard to reconcile these three spheres, but each attempt leads to further affirmation of how separate they really are.
Originally Hittman wanted to cast locally around the Brooklyn area to keep the film’s authenticity. After watching the film, the audience would never have guessed that Harrison is from the outskirts of London, UK. His performance proves not only authentic, but also incredibly honest and vulnerable. Each close-up of his eyes reveals the helplessness that comes with youth. He embodies the pain of a teenager growing up in an environment that lacks guidance.
Hittman describes coming of age as an “erotic place” and uses this movie to explore the intersection between sex and violence. When sex is involved, we often “don’t want to address [it]”. Beach Rats is Hittman’s way of reminding us just how destructive it can be to “hide who you are from your family, community, and society”.
Top Photo:“Frankie” (Harris Dickson) at a local firework display.
Middle Photo: Frankie amongst his "Beach Rat" friends.
Bottom Photo: Frankie and “Simone” (Madeline Weinstein) at a party.
Photo Credits: Neon Distribution Company
There is a moment where Frankie sits at the breakfast table with his girlfriend “Simone” (Madeline Weinstein), his mother “Donna” (Kate Hodge), and his sister “Carla” (Nicole Flyus), and the women discuss Carla getting a bellybutton piercing.