Critics' Pick

Beach Rats (R)

Drama 98 min. August 25, 2017
By April Wolfe
In the outer stretches of Brooklyn, where city streets meet the sea, 19-year-old Frankie sits hunched over in the dark in his parents’ basement, cruising for older men on the internet. The brim of his hat barely lets us see his eyes. He’s not furiously masturbating or drooling over the hot bods on this site; he’s hiding. When one man asks him to meet in person, he responds, "I don’t do that sort of thing." Frankie needs to fit in with his hetero buds; indeed, when they’re together it’s difficult to tell apart the four friends — Frankie, Jesse (Anton Selyaninov), Nick (Frank Hakaj), Alexei (David Ivanov). Their hands and bodies and minds are in sync, like the gears of a machine.

There have been other stories about the emotional toll of being closeted, but Frankie is so afraid of his feelings that he’s barely aware the closet exists. Director Eliza Hittman never lets Frankie get too comfortable as he continues living his double life, finding small moments of joy and vulnerability with the few men he meets from the dating site. In these scenes, Frankie is no less in rhythm with his male partners than he is with his friends, but that rhythm becomes fluid, the pace relaxed. These moments of ease are heartbreaking to witness because they are so fleeting.
Eliza Hittman Harris Dickinson, Kate Hodge, Erik Potempa, Madeline Weinstein Eliza Hittman Neon

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