Film Review – Waves (2019)

Title – Waves (2019)

Director – Trey Edward Shults (It Comes at Night)

Cast – Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Clifton Collins Jr.

Plot – Follows the lives of the Williams family, an African-American family living in the picturesque surrounds of South Florida, as they learn to deal with a family tragedy that threatens to tear them apart.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers up all offenses”

Review by Eddie on 10/07/2020

With his newest film Waves, director Trey Edward Shults has showcased an impressive ability to improve with each singular effort across his three distributed films, as he transforms further into the director he could be with a film bursting with energy, verve and heart, that while not always hitting the emotional highs it goes for, shows itself to be an undeniably unique feature length effort of much creative flair, substance and creativity.

Spinning a somewhat typical family drama affair into a whole new direction thanks to its visual tricks and molding together of well-known songs, Drew Daniels color-filled camera work and Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s experimental and at times hypnotizing soundtrack, Waves very quickly bypasses the familiar narrative beats it at times follows as Shults bravely gives us a film split into two very distinct portions as it explores the life of South Florida African American family the Williams.

Built around Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s high school wrestler and budding sporting star Tyler and Taylor Russell as his younger more softly spoken sister Emily, Waves tackles some weighty issues as Shults and his behind the scenes team build up a serious intensity and emotional surrounding as every camera movement, every blast of ambient sound and every drop of neon-like color helps create a wholly unique movie going experience that is just the type of unexpected and untamed type of imagination that cinema needs in today’s more carbon copy playbooks.

The visual trickery and flair displayed in almost every scene of Shults film would’ve amounted to nothing more than a curious experiment had the upcoming talent not been able to craft a suitable tale to enact everything else around but Waves is as competently acted and delivered drama as any other high-profile product of the last 12 months, that fully announces both Harrison Jr and Russell as future stars of the industry.

Supported by an awards worthy Sterling K. Brown as Tyler and Emily’s father Ronald and yet another fantastic supporting turn from the always great Lucas Hedges, Harrison Jr. who showed serious potential in Shult’s last film It Comes at Night and under-seen drama Luce really advances here as the charismatic yet sometimes detestable Tyler, while Russell who is so far best known for her core role in Netflix’s Lost in Space and horror outing Escape Room absolutely announces herself here as a major new acting talent in the Hollywood space.

It’s hard to talk too much about their performances and what their roles require of them without giving away Waves more unexpected movements but suffice to say both actors are universally impressive and quietly heartbreaking in two very differing roles.

With so much goodness to be found in this memorable effort, it’s also not impossible to see why this highly praised yet also flawed outing failed to break out in the art house circuit upon release or to the surprise of a few pundits failed to secure any major award nominations or recognition, as while Shults should be praised for reaching for the stars, Waves doesn’t always come together the way it would’ve hoped as certain plot developments and failed emotional payoffs hold the film back from becoming the outright classic it comes close to being at particular moments in its runtime.

Final Say –

Waves is a film unto its own. Taking a seemingly straightforward dramatic family story arc into exciting, dangerous and nerve-wrecking territory, Shults has crafted an impressively staged feature film with some career making acting turns anchoring its runtime and while not everything fits together perfectly, this is a film you won’t soon forget.

4 manatee’s out of 5

4 responses to “Film Review – Waves (2019)

  1. idk maaaaaan top movie of 2019 for me! I completely understand most criticisms for the film (including some of the more racially charged ones) but something about it hit every spot for me. Especially with such a polarizing experience (hated it while watching and almost walked out, then stuck it though and had a COMPLETE turn around) I couldn’t help but think this movie was everything I want from a film. Powerfully evocative, overly challenging, extremely rewarding.

    Love your thoughts on it. Looking forward to see where Shults heads next!

    • I’m certainly surprised (sorry for the pun) that it didn’t make more of a splash upon release. It’s a very strong and unique film.

      Very excited to see what Shults has in store for us moving forward.

  2. Pingback: For somber Waves of pain | Sitting Pugs: Sports Movies·

  3. Pingback: Film Review – Bones and All (2022) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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