Film Column – Suncoast

Sensitive, heart-warming, and funny, Chinn's directorial debut is hard not to like.

DIRECTED by Laura Chinn, Suncoast is a semi-autobiographical fictional account of her life as a Florida teen in the early noughties with a severely ill older brother.

Chinn’s sibling had brain cancer and she helped her mother care for him for years, even moving into a hospice to be with him at the end of his life. The director puts a fabricated twist on this touching, and at times even witty, tale of grief and self-discovery, but never shies away from the emotional human experience at it core.

Now showing on Disney+, Suncoast stars Laura Linney and Woody Harrelson alongside Nico Parker as the young lead character Doris.

The likeable teenager lives with her strong-willed mother Kristine (Linney), who must take her brother to live at a specialised facility. There, Doris strikes up an unlikely friendship with eccentric activist Paul Warren (Woody Harrelson) amidst protests surrounding one of the most landmark medical cases of all time.

Reminiscent of heartfelt indie dramas such as Ladybird, Little Miss Sunshine, or Juno, it comes with an important message about letting go and ticks all the right boxes — the same as nine out of every 10 films premiered at Sundance.

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Sensitive, heart-warming, and funny, Chinn’s directorial debut is hard not to like, especially when Linney and Harrelson more than make up for its glaring foibles.

Still, despite its deeply moving storyline and endearing characters, it is all a bit forgettable and frustrating. I felt as though I had seen the same movie countless times before. Maybe it has been watered down for its Disney+ audience, but I was left wanting and feeling cheated out of a proper ending, one that was more than just a hurried afterthought or a means to reach the end credits.

Suncoast falls well short of its potential but is still worth a look for its wonderful performances and poignant message.