Coast – Bentonville Film Festival 2021 – Film Review

Many a teenage dream was formed from a desire to escape from small town surroundings this premise is certainly the focus for Abby within Coast. A touring band provides that opportunity for 16 year old Abby to fulfil that dream but in this formulaic coming of age tale of self-discovery and belonging, it is the music and some captivating performances that make the film watchable.

Small town farm life is poetically shot within the cinematography which, to a viewer’s eyes, may not reflect Abby’s dramatic urge to leave. Particularly as Abby seems to have a supportive group of friends but this friendship is tested by the appearance of charismatic members of the band that unwittingly fuel Abby’s desire to rebel and explore. There is also the threat of realities such as teenage pregnancy and a lack of opportunities from small town life which are casually referenced within Coast.

Fatima Ptacek and Kane Ritchotte in Coast
Fatima Ptacek and Kane Ritchotte in Coast

Coast follows the established pathway of depicting teenage peer pressure as Abby tries to impress an ‘edgy’ older crowd but there are some noteworthy scenes. Especially striking are the scenes of Abby in a record shop dancing frenetically with the female band member. Obviously, these dance moves attract several gazes, including that of the band’s leader, who resembles a young Keanu Reeves in his Speed days, and the scene feels authentic with such unfiltered passion for music on display. Unfortunately, the film does not fully invest in this strand of individualism and follows a predictable boy meets girl arc for Abby. Coast only dares to deviate from expectations within a handful of scenes that evoke sympathy for Abby’s quest.  Equally, Coast’s direction, through closely framed lingering shots of Abby, successfully creates the underlying sensation that she might be led astray and is naively in over her head. Abby’s trajectory would also have benefited from further expansion of her character as Fatima Ptacek delivers an expressive performance in the role with a captivating musical turn.

Indeed, it is the music and the visuals that initially keep the momentum in this slow paced film but its examination of the female friendships surrounding Abby is intriguing to behold as she is rarely filmed alone. The friendship circle is nuanced, with drawn out caricatures amongst them including the sporty one, the nerd, the star struck dreamer. Whilst all of the friends’ ambitions differ they coalesce as a supportive circle with highs, lows and a fascinating dynamic. The film momentarily highlights the dichotomy in the status of the girls, given that some are from ethnic backgrounds. Coast hints at the traditional cultures within the backgrounds of Abby’s friends but fails to substantiate fully these aspects and feels lacking.

Coast does, however, highlight the mother-daughter relationship, which is typically fraught as both women seek to assert their opinions and territory. Where the film does step outside of the genre is by providing a rare insight into the mother’s life. However, the scenes between the mother and a patient merely serve as a plot device explicitly to expose her concerns regarding her relationship with Abby. Whilst this provides an unusual introspection for a film of this nature, there are moments where it seems jarring and distracts from Coast’s overall ambience.

Mia Xitlali, Fatima Ptacek and Mia Frampton in Coast

Coast defines that moment, as an adolescent, where all life decisions seem absolute. Abby has to decide to whether to carve out a new life for herself or to remain within familiar environs, which is never an easy decision and Ptacek’s expressive delivery conveys this difficulty with a good emotional range. Unfortunately, this is not enough to ensure that Coast stands out as the film seems to be afraid to broaden the narrative and therefore loses its momentum as a result. Still, it will be a light-hearted crowd pleaser with an intoxicating soundtrack to enjoy.

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