Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Waves is evidence that A24 absolutely failed at their marketing strategy this year. They had a lot of movies in the pipeline, but none of them are as well-rounded and meaningful as Waves. It’s interesting because Waves is such a unique and fantastic movie that there were plenty of opportunities to make this available to mainstream audiences. Maybe it’s because this movie is really three or four short movies combined into one, but Waves takes this format and uses it to stand out as one of the best movies of the year. Through the amazing technical aspects and the ensemble of performances from famous or soon-to-be famous actors, Waves is a movie we will look back and ask, “why didn’t this movie rock the awards circuit world?”
The movie follows the Williams family, siblings Tyler (Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Russell), their father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) and their step-mother Renee Elise Goldsberry), as they navigate life in South Florida. Over the course of 135 minutes, we watch the family dynamics of these four, the consequences of their actions, and how much impact they have on the people around them. There’s something instinctively human about how this movie is set up. You’ll feel a plethora of emotions when watching Waves as it covers a variety of topics and not all of them are pleasant. Whether this drug abuse and pressure to love and forgiveness, much like our own lives Waves covers the highs in lows with a stunning degree of reality. This creates a tone that represents our own successes and struggles in a way that very few movies can your feeling towards this movie can change drastically in a matter of moments. For me, the first hour or so is legitimately one of the most frightening cinematic experiences that I’ve had this year and it’s because it can happen to any of us growing up in this circumstances depicted. Outside of the tone, Waves is enhanced by technical work that only aids and helps emphasize the point of the story. Whether this is the phenomenal cinematography (maybe the best since If Beale Street Could Talk), and a soundtrack that is both modern and meaningful, Shults’ work shows us he can direct just as well as he can write. While all of these elements are valuable, there’s no way this movie would’ve worked if not for the performances by this ensemble of incredibly talented actors. Between Harrison Jr., Hedges, Russell, and Brown, Waves is littered with some of the most prolific actors of the generation and those who will be revered in due time. When we look back at this film in 10 years we will wonder why this movie didn’t emerge as one of the best indie movies of the year, but those who did watch this will be rewarding with a deeply personal movie that can and hopefully will span generations. There’s a legitimate case to make that every actor here is at their very best and this is a credit to Shults and his ability to command every moment of Waves.
Overall, Waves is a very appropriate title for this movie, and not for the reasons you may think. It may be called Waves because it takes place near the beach, but I think in this case the movie depicts life as more of a sine wave. Throughout our lives we experience ups and downs, highs and lows that give us variability throughout our daily routine. Sometimes we feel like we’re on top of the world and other times we come crashing down, and the ability for Waves to humanize the best and worst moments of our lives and make them digestible shows a level of talent that very few films will ever hope to imagine.
Overall Score: 10/10