Time: 135 Minutes
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Tyler Williams
Lucas Hedges as Luke
Taylor Russell as Emily Williams
Alexa Demie as Alexis Lopez
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Catherine Williams
Sterling K. Brown as Ronald Williams
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike. Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.
I’ve been hearing a bunch of things about Waves for the past months. I recognised some of the actors like Sterling J. Brown and I recognise the director from his work on It Comes at Night, which I thought was pretty good. The reactions had been interesting, some have been highly praising it as one of the best of the year, others couldn’t stand it and downright hated it. I had no idea how I’d feel about it, but I was actually quite surprised by how much I loved Waves.
Much of Waves is best seen not knowing too much going in, so I’ll refrain from spoilers as best as I can. Much of the talk surrounding this movie has been how it’s essentially split into two very different and distinct halves, and I’ve noticed a lot of people loving the first half and bored with the second, or hating the first half and starting to like the movie during the second. The first half has some of the most electric filmmaking I’ve seen in a while, and indeed the story in this part is pretty tense too, as things build up towards… something. The second half is a lot more quiet and calm in comparison. For me I personally loved both parts. While I was into the first half, the second half was essential for the movie sticking really the landing, and I never felt bored during that. I was locked into the story and characters throughout, and indeed it’s an emotionally powerful story, and is very affecting, with a number of heartbreaking scenes throughout. The only gripe I guess I might have is that the ending is a little abrupt, even just 30 seconds longer would’ve made it better.
Waves has a great ensemble cast, and they all perform excellently, with the likes of Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges. They all give some of the best performances of their careers, emotionally intense and powerful. Biggest surprise was from Taylor Russell, who really shines in the second half, and essentially carries that portion. Even if the rest of the movie won’t work for you, I think you’ll at least be impressed on an acting level.
I was already impressed by Trey Edward Shults’s work on It Comes at Night, but I’m even more impressed with what he did with Waves. So much of this movie is sensory overload, mainly the first half, with the camera work, the music and sound, it’s can be really overwhelming. I get for some people it may be too much but I for one liked it for that. Waves is also a gorgeous looking movie from beginning to end, with a great colour palette that worked perfectly with the movie. There’s even some aspect ratio changes at points that oddly enough fitted the narrative. I don’t recognise really any of the songs used in the movie, and indeed I’m not part of the specific audience that the soundtrack is very much built towards, but there’s a great playlist here, and I thought it accompanied the plot appropriately. The score itself is also really good, I kept wondering why it sounded somewhat familiar and it turns out it was by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who of course composed music for The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and more. Their work on Waves is amongst their best scores, and that’s saying a lot.
Waves is definitely not going to work for everyone, for me though, I kind of loved it, an emotionally powerful gut punch that I’m still thinking about. It was written directed excellently, and the ensemble performances were outstanding. It surprisingly ended up one of my favourite movies of 2019. While I know that some people will hate the movie, I still do recommend seeing it for yourself, because there’s a lot of great things here.