Suncoast (2024) Ending Explained – Does Doris say goodbye to her brother?

Plot Summary

Adolescence is rarely easy due to the trials and tribulations of high school and the various dilemmas that seem life-changing at the time but that are often quite insignificant when we later look back on them. 

Doris (Nico Parker), the teenage protagonist of the semi-autobiographical film Suncoast, has a decision to make on prom night. Her dilemma is different to that of her friends who are busy thinking about their prom dresses and whether or not one of them should dump one particular guy because of his lack of integrity. 

Doris’s dilemma is more complicated and potentially life-altering. Should she attend prom, which one of her friends considers one of the most important nights of their young lives? Or should she spend the night at her terminally ill brother’s bedside to be with him on what could be his final few hours on earth?

The answer should be easy, right? But in this morally complicated drama, Doris doesn’t know what to do. She loves her brother but exhausted by the care she gave him during her younger years, she wants to experience life as a “normal” teenager, enjoying the freedom that is afforded to her privileged friends who haven’t had to deal with the stresses and pain that she has. So, for Doris, prom night is important!

But should she experience this taste of youthful freedom on the night her brother is going to die? 

Let’s take a look at the decision Doris makes as Suncoast nears its conclusion.


Did Doris have a happy childhood?

When Doris looks back on old home videos towards the end of the film, we see that some of her childhood was relatively happy. She spent time with her brother Max and they played together in the company of their mom Kristine. 

But Doris’s younger years were not without sorrow as her father died at an early age and her brother Max became terminally ill with brain cancer. 

During her teenage years, Doris spent a lot of her time caring for Max while Kristine went out to work to earn money for the family’s upkeep. As a consequence of this, Doris struggled to make friends and live out other facets of life that are typical for most teenagers.


Does Doris’s life improve?

When Max’s condition worsens, he is transferred to Suncoast Hospital for end-of-life care. For Kristine, this is particularly difficult, as she knows her son isn’t going to be with her for much longer. But for Doris, Max’s admittance into the hospital is something of a relief as the burden of care is no longer on her. 

When Kristine spends nights away from home to be at Max’s bedside, Doris has the opportunity to spend time with her peers. As her home is free of mom and Max, she is able to invite her new friends over to the house for parties and sleepovers, so her life does start to improve, despite the tragic circumstances that have allowed her a taste of freedom.


Who asks Doris to prom?

Doris makes several new friends while Max is in hospital, including several girls from her class and a lad named Nate who falls for her as the movie progresses. It’s Nate who asks Doris to prom and as she likes him too, she understandably says “yes.”

These aren’t the only friends Doris makes. At the hospital, she meets a pro-life activist named Paul Warren who is protesting outside the facility in support of a critically ill woman named Terri Schiavo whose life is about to be ended. We won’t go into the specifics of this real-life case but if you would like to know more, you can read about Terri’s story here. 

Paul becomes a father figure to Doris and in some ways, he is more supportive than Kristine who occasionally seems neglectful of her daughter’s feelings. 


Does Doris go to prom?

As Doris prepares to go to prom, she receives a phone call from her mom informing her about her brother’s worsening state. The doctors are of the belief that Max will soon die because of his yellowing fingers and laboured breathing. Most of us would want to be at our family member’s bedside but Doris struggles to know what to do.

On the one hand, she loves her brother but as prom is something that allows her a chance at normality, she is tempted to go instead of visiting Max at the hospital. As Kristine had previously lied about Max being close to death, it’s possible that this plays on her mind as she comes to a decision. 

So, what does Doris do? She decides to go to prom, though the decision she makes weighs heavily on her afterwards.


Does Doris see Max before he dies?

When Doris is at prom, one of her friends makes a short speech about the importance of being together. This causes Doris to reflect on her decision and the people she should really be spending time with – Kristine and Max! She flees from the prom party and asks a limo driver to give her a ride to the hospital.

Sadly, Doris arrives at the hospital too late. When she enters Max’s room, he is already dead. Doris is overwhelmed with grief in that moment but she is comforted by Kristine who finally pays attention to the needs of her daughter. 

Doris also spends time with Paul at the hospital. She takes comfort in his Christian faith and his belief that those who die go to a better place. This makes Max’s passing easier for her to bear and releases her of some of the guilt she is feeling about missing Max’s final moments. 

Doris’s story is based on the experiences of Suncoast’s director Laura Chinn. You can read more about her life and the events that shaped her new movie here

 

Read More: Suncoast Movie Review


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