Music has the power to inspire us, to change us, to set us on the right path, and to help us discover truths within ourselves. Punk rock plays a crucial part in influencing the rebellious young heroine of Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart’s coming-of-age drama Coast. If only the film itself were as defiant. Though the filmmaking duo possesses a firm handle of the proceedings, each beat can be seen coming a mile away.
The young lady in question is teenager Abby (Fatima Ptacek), who’s seen early on getting her nose pierced, then running away from the cops with best friends Kristi (Mia Frampton) and Kat (Mia Xitlali). Abby’s mother, Debora (Cristela Alonzo), is a nurse struggling with depression – the woman smokes in bed with her daughter as the dishes pile up, and, perhaps worst of all, she doesn’t even notice the botched nose piercing.
Good thing Abby loves punk music. She’s desperate to be a misfit, for there’s nothing worse than adhering to the norm. When a traveling rock band, led by the hunky Dave (Kane Ritchotte), gets stuck in town, Abby instantly falls for him, but also for the notion of freedom, escaping her town, living life on the edge. She dyes her hair red, shares traumatic pasts with Dave, gets into a fight with Kat about leaving their shi*ty town. Things spiral out of control until Abby has to make a crucial choice, to misquote The Clash, “Should she stay or should she go?”
“…a traveling rock band, led by the hunky Dave, gets stuck in town, Abby instantly falls for him…”
Fatima Ptacek rules. She smartly plays down her character in a film that’s filled with heightened emotions. When she does let go, such as in the scene where Abby jams out in a record shop, it’s a wonderful sight to behold. Her pubescent struggles feel real, as does the relationship with her mother. Speaking of, Cristela Alonzo provides another bright spark of light, growing increasingly terrified that her daughter will make the same mistakes she did at her age. The actress commands the screen as she surrenders to the inevitable in a beautifully orchestrated sequence towards the film’s end.
Ciara Bravo, most recently seen in Cherry, makes a brief but memorable appearance as the pregnant Cassie, providing Abby with a dose of reality. The subplot involving Debora’s relationship with her patient Olivia (Melissa Leo), on the other hand, feels tacked on and drags the story down. Melissa Leo does her thing, offering sage advice while acting stoic in the face of (what I assume is) imminent death. If they hired the actress purely for name recognition, then mission accomplished, I guess.
At times, particularly in the first half, the plot feels a bit aimless. There isn’t much to distinguish it from your average coming-of-age story, except for a pretty good soundtrack. Then things pick up, and Coast starts to resemble Thirteen‘s punk-rock little cousin. Hester and Schweickart earnestly touch upon themes of heritage and legacy, rediscovering home, treading in your parents’ footsteps, but never fully develop them. Amiable but predictable, the result coasts by on the charm of its lead.
"…Fatima Ptacek rules."