Traces the journey of a suburban family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.
‘Waves’ is an excellent movie from director Trey Edward Shults, following up his horror success ‘It Comes at Night’ with something closer to a dark family drama. It follows the Williams family who live in a coastal town on South Florida, where their two teenage children Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Taylor Russell) go to school. They live in a nice suburban house and when we first meet them everything seems to be going well, with Tyler in particular doing well in his studies and standing out as a member of the wrestling team. He’s initially happy and generally responds well to the pressure he’s put under by his father (Sterling K. Brown), however a serious injury damages his sporting career and has an irreparable impact on his psyche, putting tension on his relationships with his family and his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie).
Kelvin Harrison Jr. is carving out a niche in playing troubled teens (see last year’s ‘Luce’ as well) and he’s really terrific as Tyler, showing multiple sides to his personality and really excelling when the darkness starts to take over. One of the things ‘Waves’ does really well is portray turbulent experiences and show how individuals and families attempt to come to terms with them, and I thought this was done especially well when the focus is on Emily and the emotional journey she goes through over the course of the film. It’s helped by Lucas Hedges who plays a love interest and the scenes between him and Taylor Russell are really sweet and charming. In many respects the film reminded me of the HBO TV series ‘Euphoria’, which also delves into the darker elements of being a teenager in this day and age. It shares the use of contemporary music and sharp, stylistic editing techniques to draw you in (not to mention sharing an actress in Alexa Demie) and both are excellent in their own right.
I thought ‘Waves’ was an outstanding piece of work, tackling difficult themes with nuance and care, and the way it handles tonal shifts in the material is particularly impressive. It’s a film that manages to be all encompassing and personal at the same time, and it’s one of my early favourites from this year.
Directed By: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown, Clifton Collins Jr., Vivi Pineda, Neal Huff, Bill Wise and Harmony Korine