Waves: Film Review

I had been reading so much praise about Waves online for months that I went in expecting the masterpiece I had read about and I came away disappointed. It’s a good film but it did not live up to my lofty expectations.

Waves is a film of two halves. The first half documents high school student and wrestler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.)’s downward spiral, while the second half focuses on how his family are coping with the fallout of his actions, especially his sister Emily (Taylor Russell).

Waves is a slow and meandering character-driven piece and for a while, I wondered if there was going to be any plot at all, even though I was intrigued enough learning about the Williams family, led by Sterling K. Brown and Renee Elise Goldsberry. Rest assured, the plot reveals itself slowly but surely, then escalates quickly and reaches a shocking climax… Midway through the film. Shortly after, it switches the focus to Tyler’s sister Emily and picks up on her side of the story. This was infuriating at first because the film went back to being slow and meandering again – after all that drama – and I wanted to continue following Tyler’s story rather than getting to know his sister, who hadn’t made much of an impact in the first half. The reasoning for this becomes clear later and there are some beautiful, moving scenes but by that point, I was already annoyed by the narrative switch.

The cast are fantastic. Harrison Jr.’s character has a lot of mental issues going on and he doesn’t have someone he can truly talk to, so his problems become worse. Considering how annoyed I was by the narrative shifting to Emily, I must admit that I ended up caring for her and being invested in her perspective as much as Tyler’s and that is a testament to Russell’s amazing performance. She is fantastic and she almost moved me to tears. The same goes for Brown, whose character isn’t very likeable in the beginning because he is a pushy, tough father, but this front soon comes crashing down.

First of all, I must state that I have no issue with Lucas Hedges. He is a fine actor but his character was not needed here. This film is about the Williams family and bringing him in as a new character halfway through to serve as a love interest for Emily just didn’t work for me. I understood the point for his inclusion towards the end, but the focus on their relationship distracted from the family story. It was totally unnecessary and took up the majority of Emily’s half when I wanted to just know about her and her family and how they were coping with the tragedy.

This is a shame because Trey Edwards Shults‘ movie has many terrific scenes, has a lot to say about family and loss and is visually stunning. He plays with ratio and quirky camera movements, but it all works. The cinematography is beautiful, the music and score are awesome, and sound design is amazing – but the structure just ruined it for me.

In cinemas now 

Rating: 4/5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: