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Suncoast ★★★★



Released: 9th February (Disney Plus)

Director: Laura Chinn

Starring: Nico Parker, Laura Linney, Woody Harrelson

Nico Parker’s star has been on the rise for some time, with a lead role in Tim Burton’s Dumbo adaptation in 2019 and a standout supporting role in The Last of Us. Getting a chance for an outright lead role here in Laura Chinn’s Suncoast, which premiered at Sundance in January. It is a semi-autobiographical film that focuses on Parker’s Doris, a hard-working social outcast who has been caring for her terminally ill brother who now resides at the titular Suncoast Institute.

Several strands are going on that all simultaneously weave in and out of the forefront of the story. First and foremost, is Doris’ relationship with her mum Kristine played by the ever-dependable Laura Linney. The two have somewhat of a frosty relationship with much of Kristine’s focus when not working, dedicated to her son Max and Doris at times feeling neglected. At the same time with Kristine much of her time at the hospital, Doris sees this as an opportunity to use her house as a party venue for some of the cooler kids at her school who have previously been oblivious to her existence.

The final narrative thread is a protest about a resident at the home which leads Doris to connect with Woody Harrelson’s Paul, a grieving widower, who opens himself up to Doris and builds a rapport with her throughout the film. The pair share fine chemistry. The cast help to elevate the film beyond its shortcomings and the disparate threads, keeping it a watchable, moving experience throughout.

Harrelson and Linney are commendable in their roles but it is Parker who truly shines, helping to hold it together with her restrained, mature performances. Really capturing her frustration at her situation and the burden, her brother’s illness has placed on her without ever over-acting. It is a performance that should further increase her status as a rising star, showing her range and a far cry from her next role in the live-action How To Train Your Dragon remake.

Suncoast is an impressive debut for Laura Chinn. Never overbearing despite its subject matter, full of warmth and nostalgia and a perfect showcase for its three leads. While it is Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney, who will likely attract viewers. It is Nico Parker with a terrific star-making turn that makes this such a strong Indie film and one well worth audiences time, more than making up for some small stumbles from its debut filmmaker.

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