Abby (Fatima Ptacek) is a teenager living a quiet and uninspiring life in California’s central coast. Her town is completely unexceptional, just buildings nestled among farmlands. Her family? Well, her dad, Blake (Paul McCarthy-Boyington) got her secretary pregnant and was kicked out by her mom, Debora (Cristela Alonzo). He still comes around. Abby avoids him.
Doing well in school is one way out. Running away is the other. The mess of her family life has torched aspirations for the former, and her dreams of being a musician fuel the midnight-flight doomsday clock that ticks in the back of her mind every passing moment. When she meets Dave (Kane Ritchotte), a traveling musician stuck in town for a few days, her fantasies start to seem viable.
Coast is a coming-of-age story like you’ve seen it before. The script, by writer Cindy Kitagawa, hits most of the beats you’d expect from this sort of story. Family strife, boring hometown, friend drama, doomed idealistic romance. Abby loves music and doesn’t understand her mother’s sacrifices. Her mother doesn’t understand her daughter despite seeing so much of herself in her. Ultimately the story boils down to understanding the goodness of where you are and the people who love you rather than chasing green pastures. There are a few stray storylines, including Debora’s relationship with a wise elderly woman, Olivia (Melissa Leo), but they’re all tangential to Abby’s self-realization.
Don’t misunderstand: Kitagawa’s script works well enough. The characters are likable and the plot moves at an amiable pace. It just does not break new ground.
Thankfully, directors Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickhart do a great job shooting it. They imbue Abby’s story with a real sense of physical and emotional space. D.J. Harder’s cinematography is gorgeous. It may even make Abby’s hometown a little too appealing, at least aesthetically. They’re equally thoughtful about how they shoot their characters and the conflicts that develop. It’s a well-shot film that hits all its marks.
The cast is full of younger performers without a large number of credits to their names, and they all put in good work with the roles they’re given. Abby’s group of girlfriends breaks down into the standard stereotypes. Kristi (Mia Rose Frampton) is the exuberant ringleader who starts the parties to hide a difficult home life. Kat (Mia Xitlali) is Abby’s closest friend, who looks to academics as her way out and whose family treats Abby as one of their own. For what it’s worth, Richotte’s performance as Dave is undermined by the character’s shallow depiction. He’s the love interest and mostly shows up to hit the required beats in Abby’s story.
Given Abby’s interest in music, the soundtrack to Coast is one of its standout elements. Selections by Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division feature prominently, but the characters are constantly performing or listening to music. The original score by Ritchotte, Alex Walker, Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper is great, too, appropriately accompanying the story without feeling overbearing or unnecessary.
Coast is a well-shot, well-acted story that feels like it’s been told a thousand times before. The whole team put forth excellent work. Go in with a focus on how it’s made, rather than expecting something new, and you’ll be satisfied.