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Review: Suncoast (2024)

Suncoast (2024)

Directed by: Laura Chinn

Premise: A teenager (Nico Parker) is left alone while her mother (Laura Linney) spends time at a hospice facility with her ailing brother. She befriends a man (Woody Harrelson) who lost his wife.

What Works: The strongest element of Suncoast is the relationship between the mother and daughter played by Nico Parker and Laura Linney. The two of them are convincing as a family. They go through the familiar teenage growing pains with the daughter protective of her social image and trying to break away and assert herself. This conflict is exacerbated by the declining health of the brother who suffers from brain cancer and does not have long to live. The mother’s attention is on her son at the expense of the daughter. This causes tension in their relationship, some of it obvious but other aspects underplayed. The stress and grief and exhaustion are palpable in Parker and Linney’s performances. Admirably, the filmmakers do not give the characters easy resolutions. Neither the daughter nor the mother are idealized. They are at times cruel and selfish but in an understandable and humanistic way. Suncoast is sad but not sentimental and it avoids some of the maudlin cliches of illness dramas. The film does not fetishize tragedy and there are some moments that hit hard because of the filmmakers’ restraint. The picture also does the teenage drama quite well. Parker’s character befriends some of her classmates and the relations between the teen girls are credible with the filmmakers picking up on the subtle meanness between them.

What Doesn’t: When Nico Parker’s character isn’t with her mother or her friends, she is conversing with an older man, played by Woody Harrelson, who has lost his wife. Harrelson does the grizzled but funny mentor role well as he did in Edge of Seventeen and Champions but it’s not believable that this teenager would hang out with this strange older man. Nothing comes of the subplot. It could be removed from the script without changing the outcome of the movie. Suncoast is set in 2005 around the Terri Schiavo case in which the fate of a woman in a vegetative state became a national news story. Schiavo is housed in the same hospice facility as the protagonist’s brother and protesters line the perimeter. There’s no reason to set the story around the Schiavo controversy. Nothing meaningful is gained from it and the story doesn’t comment on the issues of dignity and death. For that matter, the brother remains uncharacterized. He’s present but not a participant and the filmmakers treat the brother as a MacGuffin which seems contradictory to the point of the film, if there is one.

Disc extras: On Hulu.

Bottom Line: Suncoast is an uneven drama. The relationship between mother and daughter is rendered effectively and the filmmakers handle grief and death bluntly but tastefully. Other parts of the film don’t quite come together.

Episode: #988 (March 17, 2024)