Harris Dickinson, in an extraordinary lead performance, plays an aimless 19-year-old in this exquisitely haunting LGBT coming-of-age story. Rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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The bold, masterful “Beach Rats,” one of the most exquisitely haunting LGBT coming-of-age stories ever told, takes place in the unhip fringes of Brooklyn, a land that time has forgotten. But nothing about this film is forgettable.

Frankie (Harris Dickinson, in a breathtaking debut) is an aimless 19-year-old who spends most of his time smoking pot and hanging out with homophobic hoods — when he’s not secretly chatting with older men on online cruising sites. He has no job, his father is dying of cancer and he’s trapped in a world where it’s impossible to be himself.

This is a subtle psychological character study that wouldn’t stand a chance without an extraordinary lead performance, and the choir-boyish Dickinson delivers with a heartbreaking mix of vulnerability, turmoil, tenderness and cruelty. Deep down, he wants desperately to connect with someone, and we sense that — which only makes his regretful choices all the sadder in the end.

Movie Review ★★★★  

Beach Rats,’ with Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge. Written and directed by Eliza Hittman. 95 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language. SIFF Cinema Egyptian.

Writer-director Eliza Hittman gives this particularly American story a European feel, from the way she sets up her austere but beautiful shots to the way she unflinchingly depicts the sexual explorations of Frankie. Every frame of her outer Brooklyn feels authentic, as do all the characters, especially Frankie’s long-suffering mother (Kate Hodge) and increasingly aware girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein).

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It’s not the feel-good movie of the year, but it’s a powerfully rendered reminder that coming of age can be harrowing, and hurtful to others, even in our purportedly more open-minded country.