Parents' Guide to


By Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Emotional film on grief, death; language, alcohol, drugs.

Movie R 2024 109 minutes
Suncoast movie poster: Nico Parker sits between Laura Linney and Woody Harrelson.

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This emotional debut feature works on two levels -- as a study in grief, and as a coming-of-age portrayal. Chalk that up to an absorbing story, based on Suncoast director Laura Chinn's own life, and three sincere turns from Linney, Harrelson, and especially star Parker, who won a breakthrough performance jury award at Sundance for her work. She astutely captures the awkwardness and desire for experimentation of a sheltered teen as well as the grief her character is experiencing, for her ailing brother, her own lost adolescence caring for him, and for the lack of parenting care from her grieving mother.

The always reliable Linney manages to make her headstrong mom both sympathetic and disturbing. Sometimes her treatment of her daughter feels overstated, like when she forgets she has a second child or willfully ignores Doris's obvious needs. Likewise, a parallel Chinn draws up between the Terri Schiavo case, Doris's family's situation, and high school classroom debates about ethics, religion, and the law can feel overly scripted. But knowing that some of this came from actual experience softens that criticism -- according to interviews, Chinn's own ailing brother was in the same hospice facility as Schiavo, and protests were taking place outside. The moral seems to lie in treating others -- family, friends, strangers, publicized cases, and also oneself -- with empathy.

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