Suncoast has such sunny appeal for a movie about death.  Maybe it’s the Floridian setting, maybe it’s because this dramedy skims the surface of its morose material.  A case could also be made that Laura Chinn’s filmmaking debut is supposed to mirror the disconnected feelings of the story’s lead character, Doris.

High school wallflower Doris, played by Nico Parker (who made her first on-screen appearance in 2019’s Dumbo), is surrounded by death or the discussion of dying.  Taking place in 2005 around the controversial debate about Terri Schiavo’s vegetative living, Doris’ unresponsive and terminally ill brother Max (Cree Kawa) is transported to Suncoast Hospice to live out the remainder of his life – the same hospice where Schiavo resides while picketers parade outside.  Doris has become numb to death and doesn’t see a point in trying to communicate with Max, which her mother Kristine (Laura Linney) struggles to understand. 

When Doris isn’t at the hospice, she’s tries to fit in at school.  When she’s not at school, she’s chatting with Paul (Woody Harrelson), a wise and sympathetic protester she befriends and finds an outlet to vent to.  However, it becomes obvious that Paul, a widower who relates to Schiavo’s story, may have more of a desire to empathize with someone – anybody.

Despite the pathos, writer/director Chinn handles sensitive situations with a light sense of humour and an open heart, much like 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  This cautiousness comes as expected considering Chinn is new to filmmaking and the material is autobiographical.  However, Suncoast is still a solid departure for the former TV writer/producer, and a clear indication of what Chinn can offer audiences: an evocative and goodnatured perspective that a well-cast ensemble can thoroughly understand and work wonders with.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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