Hulu’s coming-of-age drama ‘Suncoast’ explores the meaning of grief and what it means to let go. It follows Doris, a teenage girl who has been caring for her brother for the past six years. While she grieves for her brother, she also misses the life she could have had if her brother was fine. She wants to be a “normal” teenager, hanging out and partying with her friends, and above all, she wants her mother to treat her like a child and pay attention to her once in a while.
All these complex feelings of Doris feel natural and real because the director, Laura Chinn, pulled them straight out of her life. She based the character on herself and even named Doris’ brother, Max, after her own. The film is dedicated to her brother. What happened to him?
Max Kenneth Chinn Died Tragically Young
Writer-director Laura Chinn’s brother, Max, died on April 4, 2005, at the age of 22, at Suncoast Hospice in Florida.
Max was born on February 26, 1983. Described as “popular and athletic,” Max was sixteen years old when his look took a turn for the worse. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and his condition deteriorated rapidly over the years. His mother tried to get him the best possible treatment and even briefly relocated to LA with him, leaving behind her 13-year-old daughter, Laura, in Florida by herself. Slowly, his vision was impaired, his hearing was impacted, and he was unable to walk or move around. By the end, he was unable even to speak and was restricted to a vegetative state.
For six years, Laura and her mother took care of Max, but in the end, he was admitted into a hospice called Suncoast. This was in early 2005, by when, according to his sister, he had lost “his ability to just mentally process any kind of conversation, so [she] knew his body was ready to go.” Laura Chinn also noted this was around the same time that Terri Schiavo was also in the same hospice, and the debate surrounding the question of her life and death was at its peak, especially after the court allowed to have her feeding tube removed. Schiavo died mere days before Max breathed his last.
In the film, Doris is at her prom when her brother passes away, and she misses being with him in his final moments. She feels guilty for not being next to him and not being able to say all the things that she wanted to. In real life, however, Laura Chinn was right by her brother’s side as he took his final breaths. But even then, she revealed, it did nothing to lessen the pain or the intensity of the loss. She now recalls it as an “awe-filled, sacred, holy experience” and believes that it helped let her go of her brother.
Through the film, Laura Chinn wanted to highlight different aspects of grieving for a loved one, emphasizing that there is no “correct way” to grieve and that all the emotions, no matter if they feel negative in retrospect, are right. She dedicated ‘Suncoast’ to her brother to honor his memory and her love for him.