28th Jan2020

‘Waves’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Bill Wise, David Garelik, Justin R. Chan, Lucas Hedges, Joshua Brockington, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown, Clifton Collins Jr. | Written and Directed by Trey Edward Shults


From the very first frame of Waves we are placed in the centre of this family drama, as the camera spins and turns we soon find our self caught by the movie’s power. Before we know it, the waves have crashed over us and we have been submerged into this world.

Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr) has everything going for him, the star of the school wrestling team, a beautiful girlfriend and a life of endless parties. As the film progresses and we follow his story of dealing with an injury that could ruin his chances of being a future athlete, we see his father (Sterling K Brown) baring down and adding even more weight to this young man’s shoulders. The movie almost trances you into a lull, the soundtrack and free flowing camera work make it feel like we are floating through the story, there’s a calmness that begins to take hold. That calmness doesn’t last, like the tides of the sea, they come and go. Before long the power of the film crashes into you like the film’s title, it can leave you breathless and even heartbroken.

It’s the power in these moments that make the film so captivating and memorable, however I don’t think this could have been achieved without the softer, quiet moments of the film. The moments when everything is at peace and the world is ahead of you, when the centre of your world is listening to music in your car, driving along a beautiful ocean view. The film puts us right in the heart of this family’s life and if you allow it to pull you in it will work all the more powerfully.

“We are not afforded the luxury of being average,” Tylers father tells him. “We’ve got to work 10 times as hard just to get anywhere.” The burden of being a father and pressure of being a son weighs heavily on these two characters who give incredible performances as father and son. Tyler’s father is making sure his son can push himself further, he knows that being a black American, even with the luxury of money, comes with no safety net. There are no second chances in the world for teenagers like Tyler, and his father knows it.

The relationship of these two characters and the addition of Tyler’s sister Emily (Taylor Russell) show the hard and terrible side of pushing someone to hard, the regret of good intentions and how they can turn out. The film deals with tragedy and how to fill that void, if it even can be filled for some people. The second half of the film takes a turn in a new direction that I personally found refreshing and unexpected, the rippling effect of the momentous wave that crashes over you spreads far. We get to see how one moment can effect a family and how the consequences effect deeper and further than you ever think they can.

Waves feels like a film born from the 21st century, a film that’s been kissed by a tremendous soundtrack that feels modern and alive. This story feels relevant and the Miami setting works for some beautiful cinematography by Drew Daniels. The director, Trey Edward Shults, previously made the film, It Comes at Night. It Comes at Night, was a story that at its core told something horrible about America. How the country is turning on each other, how nobody trusts anyone anymore. Waves then is also about America, about the pressure that’s being out on the shoulders of men and the lack of attention paid to the women. It’s family, love and respect, everything America sees itself for but when you strip everything away the waves hit you and you see what’s really there, just heartache and tragedy.

This is a film that stays with you and if you let the waves wash over you the film will work in so many ways. With an incredible cast and another beautiful performances by Kelvin Harrison Jr and a second half performance by Lucas Hedges, Waves is a film you should make your way out to go and see.

**** 4/5


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