Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown
By Tim Basaraba
In the wrong hands, Trey Edward Shults’ Waves would have been a cautionary tale reminiscent of an 80’s after-school special. This story, however, is undoubtedly in the right hands. Shults, who wrote and directed the film, takes special care to keep the viewer uneasy during the first act, which feels at odds with what seems to be a beautiful coming of age story.
Waves is indeed beautiful. Colors, sounds and words cascade over the viewer like a waterfall. The acting is impeccable. The parents, played by Sterling K. Brown and Renée Elise Goldsberry, come across as extremely authentic. For example, they never go for the overly-dramatic reaction to their children’s transgressions. Instead, they let their facial expressions show their varying levels of pain of disappointment.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. is Tyler, and, as the story unfolds, we find ourselves rooting for this young high school student: he’s popular, full of promise and an elite athlete. Taylor Russell plays Emily, Tyler’s reserved sister. Much like her brother, we root for her to overcome obstacles too.
Speaking of obstacles, the film’s biggest obstacle is its 135-minute run time. The transition from second to third act is abrupt, and the third act feels almost unnecessary. In fact, the runtime wouldn’t have been an issue if the film would have ended after the second act, but I’m glad it didn’t. The third act successfully brings the viewer out of the pit of despair created in the first two acts. Shults wants us to feel something different as the film comes to a close. And we do.
For me, the ending was worth the wait; seeing the beauty of colors, sounds and words, kept me engaged. For some, it may not. I guess I chase waterfalls.
If Shults’ breakout horror film It Comes At Night (2017) is a B-, then Waves is an A-