Suncoast Review: Laura Chinn’s Impressive Coming-of-Age Debut

Suncoast (2024).

Suncoast is a coming-of-age drama film that marks the directorial debut of Laura Chinn, who draws upon her personal life experiences from the early 2000s for the screenplay, a project that notably made it to the 2020 Black List—an annual listing of the most liked unmade screenplays of the year. This accolade alone suggests that Suncoast had the makings of a unique and compelling story from the outset. Starring an impressive cast led by Nico Parker, Laura Linney, and Woody Harrelson, the film navigates through complex family dynamics, social activism, and personal growth, making it a poignant and thought-provoking narrative.

The Good:

The premise is both intimate and expansive, exploring the microcosm of a family living in the Suncoast region and touching on broader, impactful themes. The story centers around Doris, played with an exquisite depth by newcomer Nico Parker, a teenager burdened with adult responsibilities far beyond her years, including the care of her younger brother. Her mother, Kristine, portrayed by Laura Linney in a performance that is both raw and endearing, adds a complicated layer to the familial relationships with her audacious personality. Enter Woody Harrelson’s character, Paul, an eccentric activist focused on one of the landmark medical cases of all time, and the plot thickens with unexpected friendships and alliances forming.

Laura Chinn’s directorial approach to Suncoast is remarkably nuanced for a debut. She manages to weave together a tapestry of emotions, relationships, and pivotal life moments with a deft hand, allowing each character their moment to shine while also maintaining a cohesive narrative thread. Her background in acting and comedy is evident in the script’s sharp wit and heartfelt moments, demonstrating her adeptness at traversing the spectrum of human emotions.

Nico Parker’s portrayal of Doris is undoubtedly one of the film’s strongest assets. She brings a level of authenticity and resilience to the character. She embodies the spirit of a girl confronting the realities of her world while clinging to the innocence of youth. Her relationship with Woody Harrelson, who plays Paul with humor and wisdom, creates some of the film’s most touching scenes. Meanwhile, Laura Linney’s Kristine is a masterclass in character complexity, as she manages to evoke both frustration and sympathy from the audience, keeping viewers emotionally invested in her journey.

Cinematography in Suncoast deserves special mention. It captures the Suncoast landscape with a vividness that almost makes the setting a character in its own right. The visual storytelling, combined with an evocative score, complements the narrative beautifully. It envelops the viewer in the world that Chinn has crafted.

The Bad:

However, the film is not without its faults. At times, the pacing feels uneven, with certain scenes lingering a bit too long. But, others seem rushed, leaving the viewer wanting more. Additionally, some of the supporting characters could have been fleshed out more, giving the film a slightly unfinished feeling. Despite these minor issues, the performances and the core story are strong enough to carry the film.


Suncoast is a commendable debut from Laura Chinn, who proves her mettle as a screenwriter and director. With standout performances, the film delivers a deeply moving, sometimes funny, and always engaging exploration of growth, family, and activism. While not without its minor flaws, the film’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Suncoast is bound to stir hearts and provoke thought, heralding the arrival of a new and compelling voice in cinema.

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  • Acting - 7.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 7/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
  • Watchability - 8/10
  • Rewatchability - 7/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.