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The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

Suncoast Review: Waiting to Begin Again

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Julian Ortiz

At its core, “Suncoast” written and directed by Laura Chinn, is an intensely emotional and at times uncomfortable story. It simultaneously balances a coming of age story with a story about the loss of innocence and family. Following young Doris, the audience is taken on an intimate journey bound in characters who are waiting to lose their loved ones and those who already have. Be prepared to shed at least one tear, maybe even two if you have ever lost someone dear because “Suncoast” captures that emptiness of loss uncomfortably well. Both the acting and dialogue sing to create an experience akin to real life. No need to go to the theater “Suncoast” is streaming on Hulu.

Back of the DVD Summary: Doris, played by Nico Parker, finds herself in a whirlwind of change as her brother is in his final days and her mother Kristine (Laura Linney) is constantly on the verge of breaking down. Doris’ brother is dying of a brain tumor and can no longer speak or move on his own placing an immense strain on the family. No longer able to provide home care, Kristine takes her son to Suncoast, a hospice facility. It’s here Doris meets Paul (Woody Harrelson) and develops a friendship with him through their mutual struggle.

There’s an awkwardness to the characters and dialogue that feels incredibly authentic to life. In a story about grief, there are no long, drawn-out monologues about pain, but rather uncomfortable spaces between words and stuttering. The situation the characters find themselves in is uncomfortable and I appreciate the filmmakers letting that feeling permeate on screen, never attempting to undercut the drama. There are moments of levity, but those are deliberate and never get in the way of the drama or the real, hard-hitting moments.

Something else I appreciated about the film is that none of the characters were vilified for their behaviors. For instance, Kristine is a mess, constantly anxious and high strung because alone she is trying to keep one kid alive, while the other is dying all by herself. Anytime she acts rudely, or overacts to anything, as an audience member we can empathize with her struggle, instead of demonizing her. Even in the worst situations where she seems to act like she only has one child is understandable because one of them is constantly absorbing her attention. The same can be said of Doris, a teenage girl in a new school who is trying to find herself and her peers independently of her brother’s illness. All she wants is to be a “normal” girl, and the choices she makes that could be considered selfish stem from that understandable position of waiting for some semblance of a regular life.

Even Paul’s character could be seen as a weird old man who is getting far too friendly with a young girl, and is instead portrayed as a friendly companion, nothing more. He never oversteps his bounds or comes across as creepy, he’s consistently cheery and a big source of levity in the film. I think without his inclusion, it’s a lesser film because his character is what awaits Doris and Kristine. He’s already lost, already been through the pain that awaits them on the horizon.

In its totality, “Suncoast” is a very well crafted story that is steeped in character. Visually, there was always a pop of color in every scene which added a texture of hope. The strongest element of the film is the performances, particularly Nico Parker’s Doris. A great deal is asked of her emotionally and she delivers a real and raw performance.

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About the Contributor
Julian Ortiz, Staff Writer
Julian Ortiz is a staff writer with a particular focus on writing movie reviews. He is a JAMS major, creative writing minor. Coming out of Keizer Oregon, Julian loves to write, and to create. In his free-time he enjoys watching video essays on Youtube, going to the movies, writing, and talking way too much about storytelling.

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