Beach Rats (4 stars)

Beach Rats

Harris Dickinson impresses as a teen struggling to accept his true sexuality in Eliza Hittman's sophomore drama

In the year of God's Own Country and Call Me by Your Name, there is an old-fashioned feel to the low-budget aesthetic and meandering air of Eliza Hittman's moody second feature Beach Rats. There are echoes of early Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark in a film that immerses itself in the lives of young, inarticulate boys who drift through an aimless summer in Brooklyn.

Teenager Frankie (rising British star Harris Dickinson) has the sad blue eyes and chiselled looks of an Abercrombie & Fitch model. As his father lies dying of cancer, Frankie hangs out with his mates, scoring drugs, chasing girls and surrendering to the tawdry delights of Coney Island. He also starts to spend time in internet chat rooms, subsequently meeting up for after dark trysts with older men. Hélène Louvart's grainy, low-lit cinematography is one of the stars of the film, lending an anxious, furtive quality to the night scenes, and capturing a fleeting image of the Statue of Liberty that hints at bigger themes.

Frankie's tale is a timeless one of the struggle to be true to yourself, intensified by a world in which he feels pressure to conform to the macho values that surround him. The other guys may be shirtless and pumping iron but they seem oblivious to the homoeroticism in their friendship. When Frankie embarks on an awkward relationship with Simone (Madeline Weinstein), she is treated like a reassuring trophy of his heterosexuality.

Self-loathing plays a part in Frankie's search for the true course of his heart's desire and you suspect that this will only end badly. Hittman strains to avoid that cliché and the impressive Dickinson brings just enough anguish and confusion to his performance, making Frankie a character you decide to care about.

Selected release from Fri 24 Nov.

Beach Rats

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 38min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Eliza Hittman
  • Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge
  • UK release: 24 November 2017

Frankie (Dickinson) is a teenage New Yorker who hangs out with his mates, scoring drugs, chasing girls, and also meeting up for dark trysts with older men. Timeless tale about the struggle to conform; Hittman strains to avoid clichés and Dickinson brings just enough anguish and confusion to make Frankie a character you…