It’s a hot summer in New York and Frankie isn’t having a good time. His dad’s health is crumbling, his teenage buddies just want to get high, and a smart, beautiful girl has feelings for him — feelings he cannot reciprocate. Frankie’s sexual curiosity about men leaves him lonely, which leads to risky, anonymous encounters.
This Brooklyn doesn’t look like the gentrified, liberal enclave typically portrayed. Just a few subway stops away from some of the gay-friendliest areas in the country exists a tougher community unaccustomed to recent social progress. Frankie knows what his beach-rat buds would do if they found out his sexuality, so he hides inside an increasingly dark and delinquent world of self-loathing. To everyone else, he’s a beautiful and popular straight stud. But Frankie feels trapped in a persona he hates and has no idea how to shed.
Director Eliza Hittman won a prestigious U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for this entrancing portrait of a vulnerable young man in trouble. Beach Rats’ warm hazy lens, as if softened by salty sea air, captures the lazy beauty of summer — but the film can unexpectedly turn sinister, in keeping with its protagonist’s unstable double-life. Moments that feel wrapped up in idyllic teenage nostalgia snap into nerve-wracking and dangerous confrontation. Beach Rats is raw, lyrical, and sexy, unusual in its commanding insight into teen angst and a clear sign of a gifted filmmaker on the rise.
— HARRY VAUGHN
This film contains a depiction of homophobic violence.