Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tender and rousing music adds flavor to Coast, the feature film debut of directors Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart. On surface level, it’s a coming-of-age drama film about 16 year old Abby (Fatima Ptacek) as she figures out where she belongs in the world, while working on a hometown history paper. What does she love most about her small town? Well, nothing, it seems, until she meets Dave (Kane Ritchotte), the lead singer of a traveling rock band. The enticing prospect of dropping everything and hitting the road to tour with Dave might be just the proposition to shake Abby from her erratic existence.

The pure energy of the live music performances and booming soundtrack sets apart Coast from other coming-of-age films. I’m living in a current time where I’m both nostalgic and hopeful about returning to concerts in the near future. Coast lovingly builds every song into a living, breathing manifestation of character and mood, and gave me the fluttery concert vibes I’ve been so desperately craving. A haunting cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is so good that I had to instantly rewatch it. An instance where Abby is quite literally conveying the words of “never talking to you again” perfectly depicts Abby’s mood.

Coast may share many thematic beats with its coming-of-age brethren, but Fatima’s raw performance adds further emotional heft. The only aspect of the movie I found a little hard to get behind was the subplot with Cristela Alonzo and Melissa Leo. It feels disconnected from the rest of the storyline, and it slows the pace of the movie. Beyond this subplot, I fell in love with Coast. I wanted to rewatch it again as soon as it ended. It approaches the beauty all around us through a contemplative, musically-inclined lens. Like Dave, I anticipated a clam, but what I got was an oyster with a beautiful pearl inside. 

Coast screened as a selection of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, March 31st – April 10th.

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