• Loren King

Teen Angst Set to a Rock Beat in “Coast”

The agricultural community of Santa Maria, California plays a meaningful role in “Coast,” a drama that puts a unique and personal stamp on the familiar story of restless youth wanting to flee small town life.

The film centers on a believable young woman, Abby (Fatima Ptacek), a teenager desperate to break out of her surroundings who takes refuge in rock music. She’s not sure what exactly she’s rebelling against but she’s angry at her father who just left the family and takes it out on her mother Debora (Cristela Alonzo) who works nights as a hospital nurse and who’s coping with her own pain around the divorce.

Directed by Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart from a script by Cindy Kitagawa, “Coast” is refreshingly set among a largely Latinx community. Some are first generation immigrants who work the farms and want better for their kids who themselves are torn between family tradition and youthful yearning. The story focuses on various entwined relationships in the small town but mostly its about mothers and daughters. Debora connects with a demanding patient, Olivia (Melissa Leo), who becomes a maternal figure and offers no nonsense advice as the two bond over the trials of motherhood. Abby’s best friends from childhood (Ciara Bravo and Mia Xitlali) offer one another a surrogate family.

But this dynamic is upended by bad girl Kristi (Mia Rose Frampton) whose Los Angeles cred and wild streak at first impresses Abby. “Coast” captures the world of teen girls that seems too small and too big at once: the relentless peer pressures; the clashes; the moments of exhilaration such as dancing with abandon in a record store or ditching school for a party on the beach.

Kristi introduces Abby to the cute boy band in town and Abby falls for the lead singer, Dave (Kane Ritchotte). He encourages her to perform despite her fears but his punk sensitivity seems too good to be true. Abby wrestles with the pull of this new, exciting terrain even though she’s hurting her hardworking mother and leaving her loyal friends feeling abandoned. Meanwhile, a kind teacher pushes Abby to complete an assignment about the history of the town, gently urging her to see beyond its limitations. Her coming of age is many things, including understanding that a place of perceived entrapment also provides identity and comfort.

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