In Theatres: 
Nov 22, 2019
Running Time: 
135 minutes

Family has been at the core of Trey Edward Shults’ films, from the drama that unfolds in Krisha to the tensions of It Comes at Night. His films always have a triggering event, followed by how those closest react, which is oftentimes not in the most logical fashion because it’s family we’re dealing with here. Waves is no different. Following a Florida family as they learn to deal and move on from a horrific tragedy, Waves will take you on an emotional rollercoaster of love and forgiveness.


Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a high school senior who seemingly has it all; he’s popular, does well in school, leads his wrestling team, and has a wonderful girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie). Despite all his success, Tyler’s father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) continues to push him to the limit, both physically and mentally. As Tyler begins to slip and struggles to be at the top of his game 100% of the time, his world begins to come crashing down around him and his family, including his younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell).


Everyone has their own way in dealing with trauma, and Waves shows the best and worst of it all. It feels like watching two films back-to-back. The first half of the film focuses on Tyler and his determination to be the best. The cinematography during this first half mirrors Tyler’s lifestyle; it’s flashy, colorful, and the camera is constantly moving. It’s chaotic, just like any high schooler’s life. Tragedy hits the family at the middle point, and this is where the film shifts to the viewpoint of Emily. Her life at this point is slower and the cinematography reflects that. It’s steadier with much longer takes and cuts. This style works to the film’s benefit because it helps set the mindset of these two kids. 


There’s a moment in Emily’s story where the camera does a 360 degree turn in her car. It’s the same motion that happens a few times during Tyler’s story and I couldn’t help but immediately think that Emily is starting to go down the same route as Tyler as she gets closer and closer to a boy (Lucas Hedges) in her class. Waves is a beautiful film to watch, even if it can get a little too dizzying at times with all the hectic movements.


While the story itself is nothing too unique, the way in which Trey Edward Shults presents it is what makes Waves such a captivating film. You see an entire family be broken apart and then tried to be put back together. Best of all you see it from every aspect, from Tyler and Emily to Ronald and his wife Catherine(Renée Elise Goldsberry). There are moments where you sympathize deeply with them and there are also moments where you hate them. Everyone does a fantastic job in the film but it’s Kelvin Harrison Jr. who really elevates Waves to another level. He’s a kid who is just trying to do his best to survive, despite the mistakes he makes. 


Waves opens an in depth and emotional widow into the life of any family. It doesn’t sugarcoat anything and instead feels like it’s going with the flow of the story as it unfolds. It’s a film that will no doubt have different meanings, depending on whether you’re the parent or the child watching, but it’s a film that is well worth watching by everyone.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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