By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is an 18-year-old high schooler who seem to have everything together on the outside. He is the star of his wrestling team. He has a seemingly perfect relationship with his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie). He has a loving step mother Catherine, a well-meaning but overbearing Father (Sterling K. Brown), and a sister, Emily (Taylor Russell), who loves him but seems to take a back seat while he shines. Slowly his life starts to unravel through a series of events and after eventual tragedy their family has to pick up the pieces and learn to become a family again.
Trey Edward Shults has crafted one of the most emotionally moving and effecting films I’ve ever seen. Its impact will stick with you long after the credits roll. I do not want to spoil anything, so my review will be spoiler free, but Shults was able to convey a message that many religious films have tried to convey in the past but are unable to in as an emotionally effective a manner. Waves is more affecting emotionally because it was more honest in its approach with certain subjects. All the religious films being made today don’t go into the depths of emotion or explore the complexity of characters like Waves does, and for that reason those films always fall flat.
The complexity of characters is also attributed to the brilliant performances from the actors along with Shults’ poignant writing. He wrote this film specifically for Kelvin Harrison Jr., who shines as the troubled teen. It’s not hard to see Shults wanted to write a film to star a guy who’s still quite a new face in the industry. The other breakout performance in this film is Taylor Russell as Emily. This film almost is set up in two stories, Tyler’s story and Emily’s. Taylor brings a level of emotional maturity that is hard to find with people her age. Lastly, not a breakout performance, but a performance that should be recognized this awards season even if it will probably be overlooked is Sterling K. Brown as their father Ronald. He is equal parts terrifying and vulnerable. His character arc is subtle and believable, and there are a couple scenes where his performance is emotionally devastating. It’s a brilliant performance and easily the best of Sterling’s brilliant career so far.
Shults’ choices of music matched with the cinematography makes for a beautiful film with memorable imagery. There are several scenes that feel as if we were watching someone remember these moments. The musical interludes are almost blurred as if someone is not remembering things exactly, but the music is bringing them back to the moment. It’s really well done and makes it a gorgeous film to look at.
Shults has crafted an emotionally affecting film about turmoil and learning to let go of hate. It’s heavy, powerful, and brilliant. It’s supremely well-acted, shot beautifully, and scored with a great soundtrack of preexisting music. It’s a small film that most will probably miss in theaters, but I implore you to seek this film out. Just bring tissues.
Waves (2019) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time someone throws up.
Do a Shot: for every musical interlude
Take a Drink: every time someone drinks.
Do a Shot: every time someone cries, including yourself.