Waves Review

A Heart-breaking Drama About Love, Dreams, And Shattered Lives

By Liselotte Vanophem

“What a difference a day made, twenty-four little hours”. The American singer Dinah Washington couldn’t have been more right. A day can change your life completely in an amazingly good way or in a terrible one. Whether it’s job-related, it involves your relationships or something you seek to achieve in life, we can’t predict which influence a day can have on that.

That’s something that Tyler and his family know like no other. Their story is now being told in the extremely emotional and hypnotising “Waves” by writer/director Trey Edward Shults (“It Comes At Night”, “Krisha”).

Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) seems to have it all. A bright future as a wrestler, a loving father (Sterling K. Brown) and stepmother (Renée Elise Goldsberry), a caring sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and a sweet girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie).

However, when you take a closer look, you might already notice some cracks in his ‘perfect’ life. He’s being pushed to the limits by his dad, the relationship between his stepmother and dad isn’t what it used to be and his wrestling dream is shattered after he’s badly injured.

What happens next is something that no one could have ever foreseen. It involves death, socially important issues and a roller coaster full of emotions. Which impact will those unexpected circumstances have one his life and those of his loved ones?

That director Shults knows how to make a gem of a film became clear a few years ago when his “Krisha” was released. Throughout its run, the film won 16 awards and was screened at prestigious film festivals such as Cannes Film Festival and the SXSW Film Festival. It seems that both the critics and fans love “Waves” equally as much and it’s incredibly understandable why.

First of all, it’s because of the superb performances of the entire cast. The frontrunner is without a doubt Harrison Jr. After putting on strong acting in “Luce”, for which he sadly didn’t get enough recognition, he does the same in this movie.

No matter if it’s as the happy, strong and prominent boxer or as the (heart)broken, insecure and angry young man, Harrison Jr. captivates us the entire time. The emotions are all there and all on point. His most impressive scenes are certainly the one between him and Brown.

Brown (“ Hotel Artemis “, “Black Panther”) shows us that you can’t judge a book by its cover. While his Ronald seems to be a strict father who drives Tyler to the edge and a hard and dedicated worker, deep down there’s much more going on. Thanks to Brown’s performance, we all feel the conflicting emotions.

Completing the powerful male performances is Lucas Hedges (“ Mid90s”, “ Ben Is Back “) as Luke, a young sweet man who has seen too much tragedy already.

But hey, it’s certainly not only the men who make from this movie fascinating. No, the female cast is as tremendous as the male.

Starting with Russell (“Lost in Space”). During the first part of “Waves”, she already gets the chance to shine as Emily with an excellent and emotional performance. However, during the second part and after the tragic events, Russell is really opening up and showing us what exceptional acting she’s capable of. The scenes between her and Hedges just go straight to your heart.

Another moving performance is being delivered by Goldsberry (“Sisters”, “Every Secret Thing”). She’s just splendid as the loving, dedicated but also grief-stricken and anxious stepmother. Last but not least, there’s also the wonderful Demie (“ Brigsby Bear”, “ Mid90s “) as the charming but also stubborn and wild Alexis. She certainly has a much bigger role as ‘just being the girlfriend’.

Another strength of “Waves” is the combination of cinematography and music. Right from the beginning, it’s obvious that cinematographer Drew Daniels (“Arizona”, “Krisha”) has a love for shooting scenes that are moving in circles.

By doing so, he creates a 360-degree perspective for the viewer to experience the lives of Tyler and his entourage right as an insider. This point of view is used in many scenes and depending on what happens it gets a different vibe.

When it’s used during the bright and happy scenes, it amplifies that joyful, relaxed and carefree time. However, when we see the darker and edgier scenes via this point of view, the confusion, uncertainty, and anger come through so much more.

There are still many scenes that are shot from a more static angle but that’s mostly when deep and intriguing conversations are happening. The upbeat, eclectic, psychedelic and immensely fitting music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross add just much more energy to this movie.

“Waves” was already screened in the UK during the BFI London Film Festival last year and if you had the chance to watch it there, then you know how lucky we are to get a full UK release from the 17th of January.

The only thing that we recommend, apart from watching this incredibly poignant drama that will leave you breathless, is that you don’t use all the tissues during the first part. The second part is even more heart-breaking than the first half. “Waves” will flood you with many emotions!

Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com on January 17, 2020.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store