19-year-old Frankie (Harris Dickinson) lives with his mum (Kate Hodge), but spends his nights at drug-fulled parties with his ‘wrong crowd’ mates, while secretly arranging late-night hookups with older men he meets online.
Beach Rats brings in many similar ideas to Magic Mike, including its beachside setting and tale of a party lifestyle going sour, but with the addition of the angst felt by a teen confused by his identity. He has the pressure of fitting in with his friends, the pressure of needing to being sexually appealing in the shallow world of gay dating, and the pressure to perform for his sort-of girlfriend (Madeline “no relation” Weinstein).
It’s a mature and incisive look at these issues, with a solid performance from Dickinson, who expresses the tempestuous undercurrents beneath the moody teen surface. But it also suffers from a pet peeve of mine which is films which are so keen to prove they are a Serious Drama that there’s not a moment of mirth.
This can be ok – I hardly expected a chukcle during Son of Saul or 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, but in a film heavy on partying and pretty young people hanging around on a beach, having its characters smile or laugh once in a while wouldn’t have made it seem less realistic, quite the opposite! And some contrast in mood might have made its darker moments feel more impactful.
In addition to the plague of gloom, Beach Rats suffers from a repetetive story and inconclusive ending which is as unsatisfying as anonymous sex in a layby at 3am (I imagine…).