by Nuha Hassan
Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart’s Coast is a coming-of-age movie about a young teenager desperate to figure out where she belongs in the world. It’s about female friendships and growing up in a small town with limited possibilities while dreaming of wanting better things. Coast rises to the challenge of portraying tender moments of love and friendship, but sometimes it’s hard to determine whether the movie keeps the storylines interesting enough for the viewer.
The film is set in a Central Californian farming community and it revolves around Abby Evans (Fatima Ptacek), a high school teenager and a misfit who loves punk rock music. She hangs out with her best friends Kristi (Mia Frampton), Kat (Mia Xitlali), and Laura (Kaylee Kamiya), The group of friends gets into all kinds of mischief and pierces Abby’s nose and runs away from the cops late at night. Meanwhile, Abby’s mother Deborah (Cristela Alonzo), is a nurse fighting depression and unable to understand her daughter anymore. After learning that her husband had a baby with his mistress, her marriage falls apart. Meanwhile, Abby is left to navigate the world on her own. When a travelling rock band led by Dave (Kane Ritchotte) gets stuck in town, Abby falls for him immediately, and her life begins to spiral out of control. Abby has to make a crucial choice: to leave behind her childhood town, her mother and friends for a better life.
Coast has tender and heartbreaking moments. Abby’s relationship with her mother isn’t perfect. Deborah desperately wants a better life for her family, but with her family and career crumbling before her eyes, she realises that she might soon be out of options. Having had Abby at a young age and being stuck in the same town, she wants her daughter to explore life outside of the already familiar places. Deborah’s inability or lack of understanding of Abby, her failed marriage, and her depression leads her to confide in a patient Olivia (Melissa Leo). In the beginning, their small acquaintanceship is rocky since Olivia wants to get out of the hospital, desperately. Even though their friendship progresses, it feels out of place, in the sense that it drags the movie longer than necessary. It’s not to say that Deborah’s struggles aren’t as important, however, their scenes are the weakest in the movie.
Concurrently, Abby dyes her hair, skips school, attends music concerts, and shares her traumatic pasts with Dave. She starts to slowly slip away from her best friends Kat and Laura and spends most of her time with Kristi and the band. Abby lives her life on the edge and dreams of a future where she can live on her own terms. When Dave comes into her life, he invites her on tour with his band. Abby is conflicted. She knows the impact her leaving will have on her mother, but when Abby hears Deborah venting to Olivia about how she should have never had her daughter, Abby decides to leave her home and her mother. She doesn’t want to look back, and yet she gets pulled back into the familiar hometown sooner than she expected.
Ptacek gives a splendid performance as the misfit teenager figuring out her life. Every tender and heartbreaking moment is heightened. The emotions are real, and her struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with her mother may be reminiscent of a lot of the viewers who wanted to break free from their homes. Deborah shines through the cracks and the viewers learn her fear: she doesn't want her daughter to make the same mistakes that she did in the past. She learns that sometimes letting go of her daughter might be the best thing for both of them. In a sense, Coast looks at how adolescents and wanting to be free are eventually inevitable.
At its heart, Coast is about the rediscovery of home. Even though the movie may be predictable and aimless in a few scenes, it’s a beautiful rendition of a coming-of-age story. With the pure energy of musical performances, the movie looks at the character developments from a musical perspective and it builds every tension and feeling of the characters. Even though there are a few issues with Coast, the message will resonate with anyone watching the movie.