Review: Coconut Hero
Canadian-German co-production Coconut Hero centers around the exploits of depressed sixteen-year-old Mike Tyson (Alex Ozeroy), who begins the film with a failed suicide attempt and having to deal with the aftermath of the embarrassment from his family and peers in a small Ontario mining town.
Following a shaky opening sequence that establishes the world through Mike’s eyes, it is revealed that a latent brain tumor within the teenager could kill him sooner than anticipated. In navigating through this oncoming trauma, Mike begins the process of forging new relationships with various people around him, most notably a romance with Miranda (Bea Santos) a dance instructor helping him to rehabilitate in the wake of his inciting incident.
Director Florian Cossen and screenwriter Elena von Saucken, who share a title card as a to illustrate their devout partnership, manage to structure the plot in a cohesive structure, but there is a strange divergence in terms of how grounded in reality it flips between. As the story oscillates from jet black dark comedy and sweet romantic bliss, it becomes apparent too soon that the screenplay is trying too hard to emulate films of this variety that have also centered around the struggles of being a teenage misanthrope, from Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude and more recently, Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. Where Coconut Hero becomes conscientious is in its dealing of youth suicide, in draping it against a cute, precocious background. Tapping into the interest of a death wish is not out of the ordinary, being that sixteen is the hardest age to get through for many. Yet, the handling of this story contains more typical beats than original ones, and its hard to imagine why the creative personnel would seek out to tell such a heavy, dark subject in this manner.
In the lead, Alex Ozerov shows potential and confidence, as his character’s predicament is no simple feat to bring across and make captivating. Despite not entering the film until the second act, Bea Santos complements him well, going beyond what could have simply been an archetypal ‘object of affection’, to deliver a nuanced and dimensionalized performance. The romance shared between Mike and Miranda is full of awkward moments but it’s the actor’s chemistry that really sells the inherent charm of it all.
Coconut Hero’s exploration of teen depression and suicide is too artificial to be taken seriously, even when harbored on the inherent truth that sixteen is a weird time to be alive. While has its moments, sadly it falls too deep into tropes of the quirky teen subgenre to really stand out. Even when it does display an organic, heartfelt sense of captivation, its lack of substance is not enough to feel like anything but a cheap imitation of better films revolving around the same components.