Coast doesn’t take the coming-of-age indie genre anywhere new. The bored teenager feeling oppressed by small-town life, the excitement of first love, and the stumbles that occur when trying on a new identity are all well-trodden stories. However, Coast does present something fresh in its total lack of judgement for its characters and its validation of teenage emotions.

Directed by Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart from a screenplay by Cindy Kitagawa, Coast centres Abby (Fatima Ptacek), a restless 15-year-old girl and vintage punk rock lover. More than anything, Abby is desperate to escape her hometown, a small farming community tucked within the central Californian coast. Soon enough, rebellious out-of-towner Kristi (Mia Rose Frampton) comes onto the scene and shakes up Abby’s stale ecosystem by introducing her to the charismatic travelling musician Dave (Kane Ritchotte).

The romantic pull between Dave and Abby opens up a world of opportunities. It offers her an escape from the life she’s grown so frustrated with – though the changing dynamics cause rifts between her and her life-long friends Cassie (Ciara Bravo), Kat (Mia Xitlali) and Laura (Kaylee Kamiya) and complicate her relationship with her mother Debora (Cristela Alonzo), a night-shift nurse going through her own identity crisis.

What Coast does best is it takes its characters’ feelings, perspectives, and actions seriously. What may on paper be a petty argument is cataclysmic to Abby, and the direction never demeans nor judges her reaction. Instead, it quietly observes events unfold, patiently following along without forcing the narrative.

Of course, a film of this small scale will have shortcomings. The various subplots aren’t always harmonious, with Melissa Leo’s hospital patient storyline feeling particularly out of place, and some of the characters’ motives and actions feel inconsistent. A different film would also have committed more time to explore the generational tensions within the largely Latinx community, where Abby and her friends’ outlook on the future is often at odds with their family tradition.

Yet, in the end, Coast is a genuine, respectful look at the angst and hopefulness of teenage years, uplifted by a great soundtrack and grounded by authentic performances from its young cast.

Coast is out now.