User Reviews (54)

Add a Review

  • I've said this before, but I will also never be tired of saying it; A24 is easily the best studio out there today, in terms of releasing quality content. Their endless devotion to finding original and exciting projects has always been an admiration of mine. Each year, they seem to be building a bigger catalogue of movies. Waves is one of their latest films to be produced and will hit theatres this November. Here's why, even though it may be a tough pill to swallow at times, you should absolutely be seeking it out.

    I will start off and say that I'm going to keep the premise very brief, because it's the type of film that consistently surprises its audience, becoming a completely different film by the end. For this reason alone, I'll simply say that Waves is a film about a relationship and a family who slowly falls apart in unexpected ways. I was incredibly invested in the set-up for this film and all of the characters in it, so when a certain moment occurs, I was floored. This movie moved me to tears in ways that I never thought it would.

    Written and directed by Trey Edward Shultz (It Comes at Night, Krisha), he very carefully crafts this story in a way that feels true to life, while also having levity in times of crisis or grief. On top of the stellar writing and direction, the cinematography by Drew Daniels, who happens to have worked with this director for years, is out of this world. From the way the camera spins to tell a story or frames things perfectly for an aspect ratio change, I would be shocked if Daniels isn't talked about for his work here.

    It goes without saying that Sterling K. Brown has deliver an amazing performance, and his work here is nothing short of that word. I believe he will be recognized for awards this coming season, but I would like to mention Taylor Russell as well. Playing sort of the backbone of this family, her character has a lot on her shoulders and there are a few scenes where she absolutely steals the show. Alexa Demie, Kelin Harrison Jr., and Renée Elise Goldsberry are all terrific as well, but there was just something I couldn't put my finger on when watching Waves unfold.

    135 minutes doesn't seem too long for a film in hindsight, but the way this story plays out will probably make some audiences impatient. There are a couple of instances when this movie feels like it ends, but there's still a lot left to explore. Looking back on this possible negative though, I feel that a rewatch may have me forgiving that aspect, and that has everything to do with the score. Even in the moments where a movie like this would seem to drag, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide a pulse-pounding score that will keep you invested, even during the slow moments in this family's life.

    In the end, for what Waves sets out to be, it's nearly perfect. The route this film takes toward the end will probably not sit well with some viewers, but that aspect is what impacted me the most and took the film from great to incredible. It can be quite upsetting and depressing at times, so if you're not into that, I would suggest looking for a different film. With that said, this is easily one of the best movies I've seen in 2019 and I can't see myself changing my mind on that. This movie is a human drama that just goes for it and it tore a hole in my heart by the end. Waves is stellar.
  • After my wife and I walked out of the movie theater, completely devastated (in the best possible ways) by what we had seen, there was a group of teenagers (the perfect audience for this film) buying tickets and I couldn't help but think about how lucky they were to be seeing Waves. It's the type of film that if one sees it in their youth, it could change how you view movies,

    I will say nothing more about Waves except it is an absolute must-see, and if it finds its audience, it has the chance to be a generational touchstone film.
  • Just saw this movie at TIFF.... wow what a film. Incredibly unique, this is the next Moonlight without being anything like Moonlight at all. The whole cast is amazing and Trey Edward Shults puts it all together perfectly. Incredible score to boot. See you at the Oscars Waves.
  • I absolutely love the soundtrack throughout, the cinematography is so good, and the acting is impeccable! Trey Edward Schulz made such a beautiful piece of cinema, I hope Waves gets Oscar nods or at least stays doing well. I love the family dynamic and everything they go through! Waves is so damm good!
  • ncrd12 September 2019
    Just saw this movie at TIFF, it lives up to the hype and then some. Trey Edward Shults is the next Chazelle/Jenkins. It hit me on a deeper emotional level than any movie I have seen before. SEE WAVES!
  • I found the first part of the movie really captivating, intense, credible and very well acted. When the focus switches to the second teen in the families the whole plot becomes very mellow (still very well acted though but diminishing the overall impact).
  • This is the best movie I have ever seen that shows with such sharpness and intelligence the complex and tortuous ramifications of toxic masculinity and how it affects every men and women in today's society, regardless of their skin color and social class.
  • My friends and I thought we watched a couple of movies last night. The character development in the first half was slim at best depending on music and gadgetry to do the work for the writers. The second half was better but seemed to tie things up in a feel good story tale ending, even introducing a deathbed father who we had hardly heard about at the end to completely the fairytale. I thought nothing was left on the cutting room floor until the Q&A afterward when the director said that the original was 3 1/2 hours. I consider this movie an example of directorial narcissism.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Trey Edward Shults' certainly has come a long way since Krisha, his low budget debut in which he conscripted family members to craft a well received but rather one note meditation on a family outsider. But here with Waves, his universe has expanded exponentially, to the point where he's now grappling with headier themes including domestic violence and the emotional after effects of loss.

    The first half of Waves I think is much better than the second. We're introduced to an upper middle class African-American family living in South Florida. The main focus is on high school senior, Tyler Williams (played by Kevin Harrison Jr, who was so good in the recent "Luce"). Tyler's father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) goes overboard in pushing his son to become a star wrestler.

    Soon a series of events cause Tyler to spiral out of control, leading to a terrible tragedy which not only affects the Williams family, but the entire community as well. Tyler's downward trajectory begins when he injures himself while wrestling and receives a dire prognosis from a doctor who informs him that his career as an athlete is over and he should undergo immediate surgery.

    Tyler can't stomach the doctor's grim prognosis and ends up continuing to compete in wrestling matches while in complete denial about this dire condition. It makes sense that he would have this attitude because his father has been pushing him to win at any cost.

    To make matters worse, Tyler's girlfriend Alexis informs him that she's pregnant and has decided not to have an abortion (after chickening out during a visit to an abortion clinic). Tyler doesn't want her to have the baby and they argue bitterly. After collapsing during a wrestling match, Tyler completely loses it after Alexis blocks him from texting or chatting on her cell phone. In a blind rage, he confronts her at a high school party and ends up striking her in the head, causing her death.

    Shults utilizes a heart-pounding score, mixing both electronic and rap music, to chronicle Tyler's meltdown. It's a visceral experience, akin to watching some of the better music videos which grab you from the start. This is precisely how tragedies occur particularly involving teenagers and domestic violence and Shults is completely on the mark, showing how such sad events basically go down.

    This part of the film reaches its climax when Tyler is sentenced to 30 to Life. Except for a brief shot of Tyler now as an inmate at film's end, he's no longer part of the story. Shults shifts to Tyler's sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and follows her as she tries to cope with her feelings of rage toward her brother as well as dealing with the now imperiled relationship between her father and stepmother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) who blames her Dad for driving Tyler to commit his insane act. Emily also blames herself for not stopping Tyler from killing Alexis, as she was there when Tyler showed up at the party.

    Emily begins to heal when she gets involved with Luke (Lucas Hedges), who also must cope with the imminent loss of his estranged father, now dying of cancer. Encouraging Luke to go and see his dying father helps her to realize that only through forgiveness can true healing take place. It's a heartfelt sentiment, but Shults drags out the relationship between the new lovers, to the point of tediousness. Unfortunately Emily and Luke are not very interesting characters and there's not enough conflict between them to keep our interest.

    There are a few sparks between Ronald and Catharine, who now wants nothing to do with him due to the previously alluded to pressure he placed on Tyler growing up. They of course have to find "the road back" too and rather predictably they do, at film's end. All the while, there is little opportunity for character development.

    Ultimately Stults is much more attuned to emotional beats than a narrative that appeals to the intellect. Some may find his exploration of how people cope with loss to be quite satisfying but others such as myself don't have the patience to sit through the lugubrious pacing. What's more, characters end up being defined by one external situation (Alexis' murder) and don't develop organically. Simply put, Waves is melodrama incarnate. For some, all the angst may be cathartic but aside from the neat, kinetic machinations up to the midpoint, much of what we see next has been done before and is a bit disappointing.

    Stults should reflect on this effort as another learning experience. What worked so well in the first half was the fact that his story was fraught with conflict. In the second half, most of the conflict dried up; in its place was the rather predictable optimistic resolution of characters overcoming loss (Emily even visits her incarcerated brother at film's end!). Fledgling filmmakers still need something more unique and less predictable if they plan to make their mark in the world of cinema.
  • matthewvaldezx17 November 2019
    This film evoked every emotion in me all within two hours. It felt not like a singular epic but an intertwined epic that followed the strong sloshing of the waves of life. My friend I didnt even dpoke after we left the theater, we walked down to the park and sat under a tree and finally broke the silence- that movie was beautiful. It was filled with pain and angry and love and felt so realistic while maintaining a sense of proliferation. Please watch waves. The music, music editing , editing , directing and acting are perfect . The script is great and fills me with nothing but raw emotion.
  • *minor vague spoilers on structure & theme*

    Waves is an ambitious, impassioned, and honest depiction of the trials and tribulations that reverberate through our lives. It is slice of life cinema that brings us so urgently into human moments at an intimacy I haven't seen since Honeyland or Roma. It's about the weight of our personal battles, but also about rediscovering family, love, and some sense of normalcy in a world that can grow tumultuous and overbearing.

    Waves, however, is primarily a sensory experience. The meticulous, immersive film & sound editing is notably well done, with visuals & colors that reflect character & mood, thoughtfully crafted transitions, and a jarring shift in tone and theme (writer/director Trey Edward Schultz apparently does all the editing himself!). There is essentially an anxiety-filled Krisha-like chapter accompanied by a fantastic score from Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, followed by a lighter, more weightless Terrence Malick chapter. The camera communicates theme and emotion through all of this extraordinarily well.

    Wonderful casting & chemistry. It's sincerely difficult to pick a favorite character when each one is written and acted so well. A few minor issues with the first half, including the medical probability of a particular event and the dynamic style being a bit heavy-handed initially. The second half emotionally wrecked the audience, as tears and sobs filled the Opera House throughout this portion. At times I thought of Lee Chang-dong's masterful meditation on grief, Secret Sunshine in the way the film spends time in silence, self-discovery, and learning to love again.

    The opening shot of the film begins with the sound of heavy breathing in and out. Amidst all the chaos in life, it never again feels we can reduce life back down to these peaceful respiratory oscillations that keep us alive and moving forward.

    DFF42 Red Carpet Presentation
  • Wonderful film. And it is very close to my heart as I could identify myself with the dad of a teenage son. Wish I asked my son to see this movies with me ... would have a real profound impact. Very low key and underrated ... but great performances to hold together this disturbing topic
  • 31-year-old director Trey Edward Shults didn't decide to go modest with his third feature. Waves is a big, broad movie, about many relationships, many deep feelings, many social issues. It doesn't always succeed, but boy, it was worth the effort!

    Shults focuses on an upscale African-American family in an affluent suburb in Florida. The son's a HS wrestling star, the daughter is quiet and sweet, the dad's successful but tough on his kids because he knows the cost of success particularly for a black family, and the mom, who's in medicine, is an empathic parent. But this seemingly idyllic set-up is shattered in the first minute by the jumping camera and raucous music. The tension is palpable. Something is going to happen throughout this film, but we don't quite know what. (Fear of the unknown was a hallmark of Shults's other notable film, It Comes at Night.)

    So this movie is not for the faint-hearted, but it's got a lot to say. About fathers and sons, parents and children, young love, sharing (or not sharing) secrets, hate, anger, and forgiveness, and the effects that great pain - physical and psychic - have on the soul. Needless to say, with this ambitious an agenda, some things work better than others. Some silly plot errors bugged me, but maybe it just doesn't matter much. Another issue that's been raised: a white director working with a black-centric story; didn't bother me, but it's been talked about. Still, the film is never boring, never static, and never mails it in. Even if 75% of the plot and message works, that was good enough for me. It is NOT easy to watch, but it has a lot to say.

    Fasten your seatbelts!
  • ferguson-627 November 2019
    Greetings again from the darkness. Whether in sports or music or movies, watching talent blossom and grow is wondrous. For movie lovers, this describes young filmmaker Trey Edward Shults, whose first feature film KRISHA really grabbed me at a film festival in 2016. His follow-up was the critically acclaimed IT COMES AT NIGHT (2017), and now with only his third film, Mr. Shults has delivered an even more ambitious story with wide-reaching impact, yet he remains true to his intimate and personal approach. In fact, with WAVES, he basically delivers two brilliant films in one.

    A terrific opening credits sequence takes us inside the life of a teenager. There is constant motion, laughter, the longing for independence, and signs of responsibility and structure. Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr, LUCE, 2019) is a high school student, talented athlete, pianist, son, brother, and boyfriend. He's living an upper-middle class life in a beautiful home with his dad (a powerhouse Sterling K Brown), stepmom (Renee Elise Goldsberry), and younger sister Emily (breakout star Taylor Russell). His dad owns a construction company, and is tough and demanding as a parent, incessantly pushing his son to do and be more. His fatherly advice comes in the form of telling Tyler that black men have to work harder than white ones ... never stopping to give praise or affection. He's the type of father who challenges his son to arm wrestle while in a restaurant and critiques his wrestling match victory by telling him the lesser opponent should have been dispatched much quicker. The pressure is relentless, though offered with the best intentions ... a college scholarship and a successful life.

    Tyler's stepmom is loving and supportive, and his sister Emily is very sweet and quiet, living in the shadows of big brother. Tyler and his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) seem to have a good relationship and Tyler appears to be dealing with the pressures. But then, as is common with life at this age, things go sideways quickly. A shoulder injury, self-medication, and Alexis' late period bring this ideal world crashing down on Tyler. Just when it seems things can't get worse, they do.

    Shults' film is really two love stories separated by a tragic line. Whereas the first half belongs to Tyler, the second half is owned by his sister Emily. Dealing with a situation and emotions that should be beyond her maturity level, Emily proves how strong she is, and how the heart can always respond to compassion and caring. She meets one of Tyler's ex-teammates Luke (yet another brilliant Lucas Hedges performance). Luke is socially clumsy and 180 degrees from being a smooth-talker, but he's smitten with Emily and offers her a lovely, if unlikely, companionship. First love is almost always awkward and watching these two navigate is quite charming and heart-warming. A road trip leads to bonding and a better understanding of each other.

    As the film shifts in focus and tone, characters are pushed to emotional limits. The film offers snapshots of moments without disturbing the flow or Shults' commitment to rich texture. The photography from cinematographer Drew Daniels is creative and varied, and adds much to the presentation. Music is also vital here. The score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross adds the perfect touch, and the soundtrack contrasts the tastes of today's generation with what the parents relate to (Dinah Washington's "What a Difference a Day Makes"), even forming a surprising connection at one point. For other fans of Shults' film KRISHA, you will enjoy a quick scene with Krisha Fairchild as a high school teacher.

    Proms, pregnancy, parties, pills, and parents are all common topics for films dealing with teens, but this one digs deeper than most. It's based in south Florida and is quite the stylish and heartfelt drama, slicing open the traits that make us human. A lifetime of good decisions builds a foundation, and one or two bad choices can topple all the good ones. When Tyler and his teammates are pumping up before a match with chants of "I cannot be taken down!", we all know that life can absolutely take you down. Tyler learns this lesson in the harshest of ways, while his sister Emily deals with the aftermath. Themes of acceptance and forgiveness give this the feeling of the work of a much more experienced filmmaker, but evidently Trey Edward Shults is just this talented.
  • So this is what Martian Scorsese's means about cinema. This movie was an emotional thrill ride of ups and downs that really will effect you on a personal level. Whenever I thought I knew where this movie was going it will take you to a new night of emotion before claiming you down. I was passionate painful and always beautiful. Excellent!
  • dave-2331628 December 2019
    Warning: Spoilers
    The first 2/ 3 of the movie may be the best movie I have seen all year. If they had rolled the credits then, I am going to guess the movie would have won a boatload of awards.

    But in true Hollywood fashion, they had to keep going, adding a couple more sub plots and searching for a feel good ending.

    What a shame.
  • Waves is a drama centered around the lives of an upper-middle class family in Florida. Waves is directed by Trey Edward Shultz, and it stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Sterling K. Brown as the Williams family. Throughout the film, the family faces internal and external conflict that pushes the boundaries of their love. The story of the film is broken into two distinct character arcs. One arc leads into the other, and the film treats the atypical dramatic structure as a loop, as opposed to a singular line. The use of looping, presents the story without a true ending, but rather a new beginning. The storyline of this film is wonderfully heartbreaking. The writing hurts in a good way.

    The brightest qualities of this film come from the editing, cinematography, and the soundtrack. The editing is incredible. The film transitions smoothly, while taking its time to enjoy the scenery. The use of color and visual effects within the film is masterfully edited in with the ongoing story. The scenes are edited to perfectly match the soundtrack put together by Trent Reznor. The soundtrack is a beautiful representation of teenage hormones and emotion. Each song accurately reflects the emotion and energy that Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr's character) and Emily (Taylor Russell's character) are presenting. The soundtrack is an all star ensemble of contemporary Hip Hop and R&B. Sonically, it adds a lot of depth to the film and the characters. The audio engineering, is some of 2019's best work.

    The cinematography is beautiful. Drew Daniels does a phenomenal job capturing the beauty of South Florida. The film is well lit and colorized, displaying a keen sense of hyperactivity. Daniels successfully captures the emotion and energy of each character. When the film is at a low, the cinematography reflects the low point. When the film is at a high, the cinematography reflects the high point. The story's pace and emotion is flawlessly matched by the cinematography. A lot of the shots within the film are stylized and well done. An excellent example of Daniels' fantastic work comes from the 360 shot seen within cars throughout the film. Daniels' cinematography is a shining example of great camera and lighting use.

    The acting within the film is beautiful. There are no hiccups within the cast. Every member of the cast emits raw emotion that moviegoers will feel. Their energy guides the film to grace. The audience feels for each character and shares their success and anguish. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is the breakout actor of the film. His portrayal of Tyler is an amazing performance. Each character is presented differently and portrayed in a unique fashion. The Williams family feel like real people living within a reality of heartbreak.

    Overall, Waves hurts. It hurts because it feels so real. Waves deals with the duality of life and death, and the duality of love and hate. Waves is a beautiful film with a powerful and wondrous presentation that shines cinematically and sonically.
  • And the moral of the story is: Parents - talk to your kids. Like, actually talk to them. Maybe give them a hug every now and again... I mean, don't wait until the absolute worst thing can happen to your family. Do it a little *before* then, kay?

    This is a powerfully told story that shows a director who may be so creative and full of vigor and energy and ambition with his camera (and good lord, Drew Daniels is flying high and free and ready to take on the world like the apprentice of Emmanuel Lubezki), that his reach may - at times - exceed the grasp of his script. I say at times because this is a bifurcated viewing experience; this is almost two movies smushed together with the first involving a very harrowing, dark, sad and intense downward spiral of a misguided young man (Kelvin Harrison, playing an opposite yet with similar hardcore energy than his character in Luce), and then the second half/the second movie is what happens to the rest of his family (primarily his younger sister) afterwards.

    I think that Shults has a lot of creative, heartfelt and genuine execution for many of the scenes and moments in the first part of the film, but at core the material is immersed in things we may have seen before, even in After-School specials - domineering (black) dad, drug addiction, pregnancy, hard-pressed-to-the-limit-and-beyond athlete, so much is pumped into the narrative - until it hits the breaking point that I was expecting would happen eventually. I wonder what turns the story could have taken had it not gone SO immesurably tragic (and the chaos that spins out for the character I think gets reflected in the filmmaking, which is commendable and uniquely done, almost like Shults doing his spin on a Fire Walk With Me scenario but for 2019).

    Then that second part comes, and I appreciated what Shults was doing with the turn into the story, even if it doesn't quite gel altogether (or it's here where it starts to feel its length, a little). He focuses in on the daughter, and a relationship that happens somewhat suddenly with Lucas Hedges, and the actors bring a lot to the table (Taylor Russell does a whole lot with what might be a little on the page, and especially delivers some heartrending moments with Brown when the characters finally have a heart to heart). The only issue is that it all rests on characters who didn't get as much time as they should've (well, Brown did, and he can't help but be great, but his character is painted in broad strokes as Angry-Unable-to-Talk-Dad). I like what he is doing as a filmmaker, which is grappling with this notion of... well, after something like THAT happens, what about everyone else?

    What Waves becomes then is - and sorry for using this word but I think it works - meditation on grief and forgiveness and trying to connect with someone to, if not mend fences completely, then to start the process. These characters, in all seriousness, could have therapy and most of their problems could be dealt with, but the idea here is almost more Biblical in nature (I don't think it's just there as a dramatic fluorish that the characters go to church, Shults means to take this seriously as a theme). But the reality is they don't and have to reckon with their lives and lots and what they have to do to become whole again. I admire so much of that and the clear passion Shults puts in to this... I just wish it connected for me overall a bit more.

    I feel almost like a dick criticizing this, as I can picture someone who's 20 years my junior or so who may see this and it could turn them on to filmmaking, or even more profoundly move them to connect with their family members. At the same time, I have to be honest with how it all worked or didn't work. At times, this is emotionally striking and heartbreaking and shocking, and at other times it's a little more basic and the execution can only do so much to rise above the more conventional themes. For all of its flaws though, it is a special picture, and certainly something A24 can be proud of (albeit there is a bit that is CLEARLY a Moonlight reference).
  • It's Oscar season, and so my ex girlfriend and I have been hitting the theaters every few days together. We saw Honey Boy, Queen & Slim, and Ford v. Ferrari all in a week. They were all great movies but it seemed she was rather underwhelmed by all of them. Why? Because she had seen WAVES the week prior. She kept suggesting how heavy it was, that when her and friend left the theater they didn't know what to do with themselves. "You love really heavy movies - you have to see it". A couple days later, two more people said basically the exact same thing to me.

    Well, now I know why she was underwhelmed with the others. WAVES is an absolute CRUSHER. I wasn't super interested before hearing anything about it from personal friends because the trailer made it look far too much like a Moonlight wannabe (another phenomenal movie - but it seemed TOO similar). WAVES is a very stylish film visually, which features a predominately black cast, and which is extremely dramatic with it's content - but that's where the similarities end. Where Moonlight focuses on growing up struggling and in poverty, Waves focuses on a relatively well-off family in a Floridian suburb, seemingly a really nice part of town. The entire primary cast absolutely KILLS it and I believe it will be majorly career-building, possibly elevating any one of these fine folks to star-level status very quickly, especially leads Kelvin Harrison Jr., the endearing Taylor Russell, and the absolutely colossal performance by Sterling K. Brown as their father. Lucas Hedges also did really fine work, portraying a character that is almost the polar opposite of his aggressive, manic interpretation of Shia LeBouf in Honey Boy.

    The movie is about 2 hours and 15 minutes but only slows down for about 15 minutes when you aren't sure where the story is going to go after some very massive plot elements unfold and shift. It is immensely gripping through the majority of the runtime, and if you're a sensitive softy, it's highly likely you're going to cry your eyes out at this one like I did. Everything that happens is extremely raw, and real - it feels progressive and simple at the same time, never too predictable OR unpredictable. You might know what's going to happen next, but the thought of such things will fill your with nervousness, and perhaps even fear. And it's an intense film, with heart as the entree but COATED in pain as it's sauce. There is beauty in the darkness but one must experience all the pain to get to the light at the end.

    The soundtrack was also fantastic. A killer blend of tasteful modern hip hop cuts, with choice cuts by hipster-era indie darlings such as Animal Collective, Radiohead, and Tame Impala, featuring some cut-up dark remixed versions of their tracks, assumedly done by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, who also did some scoring work for the film. There was even a classic Buttons track in there, one of the best contemporary electronic outfits around. Every song fits in impeccably with it's scene - really ace music supervising on this one.

    Beautiful cinematography & lighting. Impressive editing with great flow.

    This is Top 3 films of 2019 for me. Pure drama does not get better than this.
  • tjm-9258010 December 2019
    Because of lack of advertising this will end up being one of those movies up for several academy awards that hardly anyone saw. That's sad because it's truly one of the best movies year to date. From start to finish It would be impossible to feel any lack of emotion. All the cast were exceptional. IMO the best performance and also worthy of an Oscar nomination is from Taylor Russell. Don't miss it!
  • "Waves" will knock the wind right out of you. A rich and riveting emotional experience that I was not expecting. . In this drama, a suburban family's life is turned upside down when they experience a tragedy. . Usually, I don't enjoy films from A24, but "Waves" really wowed me. Beautifully shot, tremendous performances from each cast member and a harrowing and gut-wrenching story that will take you by surprise. From the highest highs and lowest lows, writer/director Trey Edwards Shults goes deep in this film covering all aspects of the human condition. I especially loved his use of various frames for the different tones in "Waves". An incredible movie-going experience that you must see.
  • First Hit: I'm not always a fan of revolving cameras and frame sizing to create a feeling, but this time it worked.

    In an opening scene, Alexis (Alexa Demie) and Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are driving in a car. They are young, the music is blaring, and they are drunk on their love for each other and being young and alive. The camera keeps going in circles creating a feeling of erratic motion, and that something is going to happen. I kept holding on to my armrest thinking that an accident was coming soon. It didn't.

    This opening scene gave me a sense that the film was going to be a roller coaster of feelings because of all the joy in this scene and the spirit of impending doom riding in the background.

    Tyler lives with his father, Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), his stepmother Catharine (Renee Elise Goldsberry), and sister Emily (Taylor Russell). They are clearly middle class, and as a black man Ronald is very proud of his work ethic, what he's achieved, and makes a point of instilling his driven work ethic in his children.

    Tyler is on the wrestling team in high school. Ronald is very engaged with his son's wrestling. He works out with Tyler and practices wrestling moves in their garage. He pushes him to be the best wrestler on the team. They not only practice wrestling moves in their garage; they also lift weights together, and they challenge each other while working out and wrestling. In one telling scene, after Tyler pins his opponent for a win, afterward his father tells him if he would have made different moves, he would have pinned his opponent 20 seconds sooner.

    So it wasn't only about the win, but how fast and what moves Tyler performed in each match that was challenged by Ronald. What Ronald doesn't know is that Tyler is hiding a shoulder injury from everyone, and the doctor is quite clear that the injury is so severe that he'll have permanent damage if he continues to wrestle.

    Tyler likes to party with his friends and is very popular at school. He and his girlfriend Alexis spend a lot of time together and are sexually active. During one text message exchange, she tells him her period's late.

    As the film proceeds, the pressure is building up in Tyler; his father is riding him to be better, his shoulder and ticket to college are irreparably damaged, and his girlfriend is pregnant. His drinking is getting worse, he's smoking more pot, and taking lots of pain pills; his life is spinning out of control.

    Going with Alexis to the abortion clinic, she changes her mind and says she wants to keep the baby. Tyler goes ballistic, they get in a massive fight in the car, and she breaks up with him.

    The tension in the film is enhanced by the use of different camera movements, image focus slipping, and color splashes only add to what is about to happen.

    Violence breaks out, and Tyler finds a reason to express the rage within and without thinking hurts the people he loves and who love him. It ends up in an act to which he finds himself arrested and sentenced to jail.

    Shortly after that, Tyler's sister Emily, who has been nearly a forgotten person in the family, meets Luke (Lucas Hedges). The early scenes of their meeting and getting to know each other are magnificently done. They felt real and authentic to the characters. Both are damaged in different ways. Luke because his father's alcoholic rages and when his father left him and his mother. Emily, because she's the forgotten one in the family and is now embarrassed because she's the sister of her once-popular imprisoned brother.

    When the film moves into this new story, the relationship between Luke and Emily, I started wondering where it was headed. Then I started worrying about Emily because she began to party and experiment with pot in the same way her brother did. I thought more trouble was brewing.

    However, the story unfolds towards the power of forgiveness and speaking openly and truthfully. As Emily supported Luke in his healing, she was being healed.

    I am not a fan of camera movement, becoming a significant part of the story, but for some reason it worked. I could have used less of the swirling circular motions, but it did add to the sensation the film was attempting to make.

    Also, as I reviewed a different film recently, I'm not a big fan of changing the image size on the screen as a way to affect the viewer. But again, here it worked. At times it was letterbox style, other times almost portrait, like what one sees from a phone video, and at other times it was full screen.

    This is a story about a family on a journey through love, tough times, tragedy, and forgiveness. It worked.

    Harrison Jr. was compelling as the young man attempting to live up to his father's ideals, failing, and spiraling out of control. The angst leading to his lashing out is probably familiar to many a young man. Russell was sublime as Harrison's younger sister, who had to come out of the shadows to be seen and own her own life. Demie was wonderful as Harrison's girlfriend, who didn't want to be controlled and wanted her feelings to be heard and honored. Brown as Harrison's dad was terrific. His portrayal of a man who was blinded by his own work and not seeing the effect it was having on his wife and kids was convincing. Goldsberry was terrific as the stepmother who empathized with the kids and struggled to find her place when her husband refused to be empathic to her pain. Hedges was excellent as Russell's boyfriend, who reached out in her time of need, and in turn she gave him strength to deal with his past. Trey Edward Shults wrote a strong and powerful script which he then in-turn directed. As a director he knew what he wanted, and I, for one, liked what he did.

    Overall: This film captured the power of love and forgiveness over the expression of anger.
  • I'm in love with this film. I was highly anticipating it after the fantastic trailer, but even I was surprised by the film it turned out to be. Emotionally moving and devastating it surely was, but the technical filmmaking on display here continues to prove that Trey Edward Shults is a director to watch for. I'm also in love with his two prior outings (Krisha and It Comes at Night), but for me this may be his best yet. This could have been made in a more typical straightforward way and still been powerful because of the strong writing and acting at the core, and yet Shults wanted to do more than that. That may mean that he may frustrate viewers and may prove to make his film more divisive, but as far as I'm concerned, the experimental-like cinematography, score (as well as the existing musical pieces) and editing really make this become a near-masterful film. It all culminates to create the most emotionally taxing and moving film I've seen this year.

    As for the acting, wow at Kelvin Harrison Jr. I liked him in It Comes at Night, but it was a role that was almost faded into the background of all of the drama occurring around him. With Luce and now this film, he's proven to be an incredible actor worthy of a long career ahead of him. Sterling K. Brown is, unsurprisingly, fantastic. Taylor Russell gives an incredibly sensitive, restrained and completely captivating turn as well. All three stand out among the finest performances of the year. What a shame that award bodies are going to ignore this film.
  • Imagine if a white boy from the suburbs who listened to hip hop all his life made a film about a black family, tackling the opioid crisis and toxic masculinity. Waves is a sappy sentimental on-the-nose film with so much flash, intensity, loudness and color that it distracts from it's obviousness. It's otherwise earnest Christian-religiosity is masked by this white boy's attempt to prove he's not just making Christian propaganda- his frat boy tendencies ensure he will show a lot of glamorous partying, sex, drugs, pro-abortion views, and violence all set against an assaultingly loud score and contemporary music.

    This film uses sound to manipulate the viewers into having an immersive and intense experience, which is fine, except that the film thinks it's a lot deeper than it actually is. If only big themes like Love and Forgiveness could be so easily depicted....

    I commend the films flashy cinematography full of tracking shots, 360 pans, changing aspect ratios, and neon lights-yet it's flash also eliminates any sense of naturalism or raw grit, making you all to aware of the film's contrived artifice.

    The film, like The Place Beyond the Pines before it, changes protagonists midway unsuccessfully. The 2nd half of the film tries to prove the film isn't just a frat boy film by spotlighting the younger sister's experience. However, the filmmaker fails to authentically capture a young woman's true inner experience-he's only able to show her character through a romantic relationship she has with a young awkward white boy (the frat boy listening to hip hop in the suburbs). The director probably finds himself in this white boy character, who is more drawn out emotionally than the younger sister.

    I'm sick of white boys who claim influence from Paul Thomas Anderson and Scorsese making films with the same old flashy obviousness. Somehow this film felt like an amalgam of so many hot pop culture trends and NOT fresh in the slightest.

    Can A24 please STOP making frat boy movies directed by generic white men?
  • Not a particularly joyful film or a writerly one, but very strong visuals, score, and acting. But besides the representation difference, I didn't feel the drama itself was particularly groundbreaking. This is not Moonlight 2.0. And disappointingly was not made by a black filmmaker.
An error has occured. Please try again.