A24’s newest coming-of-age, teen thriller, ‘Low Tide’, casts a strong wave of emotionally captivating and superb performances as a team of local, high school thieves face their most dramatic summer yet.
A popular New Jersey beach town is annually flooded with a plethora of “Benny’s” heading down from their wealthy New England and Westchester suburbs for the summer. To their dismay, local high schooler Alan (Keean Johnson) and his team of bandits, Red (Alex Neustaedter) and Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri) continue their shenanigans of breaking into vacation homes to steal valuables like jewelry and alcohol to fund and ease their “wild and free” teenage evenings by the boardwalk and lunches at their favorite burger stand. Things suddenly go downhill for the group when Alan and his younger, but wise beyond his years brother, Peter (Jaeden Martell), find a bag of gold coins in a recently vacant home to keep for themselves. Fearing the wrath of the violent, hot-tempered, and appropriately named Red, Alan must choose between loyalty to his friends, a summer romance, and immunity from legal consequences enforced by the local head of police and the fatherly Sergeant Kent (Shea Whigham).
In his first feature film, director and writer Kevin McMullin blows Low Tide out of the water with its exhilarating storyline that doesn’t waste any time for exhibition. Filled with unexpected twists and impeccable performances, most notably by Keean Johnson and Jaeden Martell, the film grasps audience’s attention right off the bat and shows a beautiful, blossoming relationship develop between the pair of polar-opposite brothers.
The two grew estranged after the death of their mother, and with a fisherman father that is gone for a majority of the year, Alan and Peter begin the film as two strangers living in the same household. Despite their age difference, the two grow a tight-knit bond and look out for each other in a way where neither age nor personality type no longer are a relevant factor.
Despite their seemingly endless crimes and cringey “boys will be boys” attitude, the group, with the exception of Red, who leaves a chilling pit in your stomach each time his oily blonde locks flow onto the screen, shows a much softer, likable side beneath their facade of youthful and rambunctious masculinity. The team is quickly faced with recognizing their true motives and self over the course of the film, and scramble to avoid the consequences. Daniel Zolghadri, despite his size and the established “goofy” role of Smitty we are introduced to at the beginning of Low Tide, shows his impressive range in a series of emotionally tumultuous breakdowns and hair-raising assertion.
Objectively, the role of Alan’s dewy-eyed, radiant, summer love interest, Mary (Kristine Froseth) fell a little flat in juxtaposition with the strong performances from the other youngsters, but regardless, you’re left rooting for the two and their seemingly demure and sweet connection.
Without giving anything away, the cliffhanger ending undoubtedly left me craving a part two with the brothers’ journey. Low Tide is absolutely a must-see film and a standout from its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.