Suncoast: Is the Hulu Movie Inspired by a True Story?

Image Credit: Eric Zachanowich/Hulu

The Laura Chinn directorial, Hulu’s ‘Suncoast,’ is a coming-of-age drama movie that chronicles the life of a teenager named Doris who is forced to make several tough decisions while living with her audacious mother, Kristine, and taking care of her brother, Max, who is admitted at a specialized facility due to a serious medical illness. Unexpectedly, Doris ends up becoming friends with an eccentric activist named Paul Warren.

Doing what activists do best, Paul has been raising his voice for one of the most landmark medical cases of all time. At the same time, Doris also finds herself embroiled in the matters of her high school. With so much on her plate at once, she must prioritize and choose what’s more important to her. The comedy-drama film, featuring compelling performances from Laura Linney, Nico Parker, Woody Harrelson, Ella Anderson, and Daniella Taylor, explores some seemingly realistic themes of family, grief, and friendship, giving rise to questions about the story’s authenticity.

Suncoast is Based on Laura Chinn’s Real Life Experiences

Yes, ‘Suncoast’ is based on a true story. As a matter of fact, the writer-director Laura Chinn took inspiration from her own life experiences during the early 2000s and weaved a thought-provoking, sentimental, and authentic screenplay, thanks to her excellent penmanship and creative mind. Although she included real-life happenings from her own life, such as her brother being taken to a specialized facility for his serious illness, there are various details that the screenwriter invented for the purpose of dramatization and entertainment.

It was a big challenge for Chinn to showcase all the emotions she was feeling over the course of six years when her brother was sick, and squeeze them into a movie with less than a couple of hours of runtime. In the film, she deliberately heightened everything that she went through in actuality. For instance, she crafted the character of Doris to be much shyer than she was in real life, while Kristine rages much more than her real-life mother. Talking about the differences in detail with Screen Rant, Chinn explained, “I think Doris is much more of a wallflower and hasn’t come into her own yet, whereas I had friends and a boyfriend. I wasn’t Cinderella.”

She further added, “I wasn’t the sole caregiver of my brother, and my mom wasn’t waitressing. She was mostly taking care of my brother. I was being a teenager, whereas in this movie, Doris is being a teenager for the first time. When you have a sibling who’s ill, there’s the sadness you feel for them and the jealousy you feel for them, and all of those things were emotions that I was trying to figure out how to capture in a story.” Chinn was around 18 when she and her family were going through a tough time while her brother was admitted to the facility. They were searched and patted down at the door of the facility daily, and she was denied the usage of her camera to capture her moments with her ailing brother.

When the writer-director reminisced about it and researched some more while writing the script, she was surprised, so much so that she called her mother. In the same interview, she elaborated on the same, saying, “I was like, ‘Mom, why didn’t we move him to a different facility? There was so much going on.’ And she was like, ‘Honey, I don’t know. We did the best we could. It was just one foot in front of the other.’ But it really was eye-opening to see the scope of the media and how many people were out there. Somehow, I was able to keep it in the background of what was going on.”

When Chinn shared the script, which was about the loss of her brother as a young teenager, with her parents, they found it extremely cathartic. Due to the involvement of various invented and fictional details, the story did not only bring back memories of what they went through but her parents also saw it as a whole different story. Furthermore, for Chinn, the entire process of writing the screenplay was like a study of grief and how people have different ways of grieving. Explaining it in detail during a conversation with Deadline, Chinn said that she tried to portray how grieving works “and hopefully without putting any judgment on that, hopefully not walking away being like, ‘I should grieve this way.'”

The filmmaker concluded, “I think that death and losing someone is so deeply personal that everyone has a wildly different reaction to it, and my point of view is, every reaction is okay. I really wanted that to come through in the movie, that all of these people who have such wildly different reactions to grief, and none of them are doing it wrong, because we’re all just doing the best we can.” Taking the aforementioned points into account, we reiterate that ‘Suncoast’ is mostly rooted in the reality of Laura Chinn’s teenage years but also includes some fictional details for dramatic purposes.

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