Beach Rats (2017) - Eliza Hittman
Similar to her debut effort, It Felt Life Love, Eliza Hittman's follow-up feature, Beach Rats, finds the talented independent filmmaker return to deliver another compelling examination of burgeoning teenage sexuality, detailing the exploits of Frankie, an aimless teenager living in the outer edges of Brooklyn. Molded by a bleak home life, Frankie is a character who struggles mightily with self-identity, torn between various exterior environmental forces and his own internal desires, detailing a young character who is wholly in a state of confusion about himself, unsure what he wants in life. Beach Rats is an impressionistic exploration of identity and personal desire, a film which manages to detail in Frankie a character who struggles desperately to figure out exactly who he wants to be be, constantly in state of unrest, confusion, and longing, unable to cut through the clutter of both personal tragedy and social pressures and define who he is as an individual. Externally, the world around Frankie is one that values unbridled masculinity and toughness, yet internally this is a character very much at a place of vulnerability, struggling to cope with his father's cancer and a household in disarray. Frankie's sexual attraction to other men conflicts with societies' designation of what he should be as a young man, causing much strife the psyche of this character who struggles desperately to find purpose and define himself as an individual. Artistically-rendered, Hittman's overall aesthetic is very much rooted in evoking a sense of intimacy in this introspective character study, featuring a lens that features a heavy dose of tight-knit compositions which are used to evoke our main protagonist's sense of isolation and solitude, detailing the internal confusion of a character who is forced to keep his sexual yearnings very close to chest. Frankie's inability to be honest with himself first-and-foremost eventually leads to violence and pain for others around him, as Beach Rats' narrative exposes the toxic nature of internal deception, revealing how self-identity and self-honesty are paramount to one's overall mental well-being. Frankie is a character who never manages to be honest with himself or comfortable in his own skin, and his inability to reach a place of solace when it comes to personal identity leaves him tortured, unable to break free from the external elements of his life which currently define him. Unsentimental and frank in its assertions about the importance of self-identity as it relates to overall mental health and self-worth, Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats narrative features a more general, familiar approach than her previous effort, yet this doesn't stop the film from being another powerful evocation about burgeoning teenage sexuality and the confusion it can cause in the psyche of those who are simply trying to define themselves as individuals.
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