8/10. Waves is a stellar film that manages to use cinematography and music to create a carefully curated emotive environment.
The film follows the Williams, an African American family, as their two children navigate the perils of high school and the ensuing responsibilities that adulthood brings. The film starts by following the eldest child Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr), who is close to finishing high school and has a promising wrestling career. Battling a shoulder injury, Tyler’s life begins to fall apart as the injury threatens to destroy his career, and his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) reveals she’s pregnant and planning to keep the child. Tyler falls further and further out of control as the fractions in the relationships with those closest start to widen, until it all comes to a head in a life-changing moment.
This is when Tyler’s sister Emily’s (Taylor Russell) story begins. Having to face the repercussions of her brother’s actions, Emily, who once served a passive existence in her family household, is pushed into the limelight for all to stare at and judge. Her introverted nature causes her to be an outcast that is just trying to get through school. However when Luke (Lucas Hedges) asks her out, she is forced to face her discomforts and discover who she is in the world, and make space for herself in those components of her life she previously shied away from.
The film tackles some heavy subjects but is balanced with a hallucinogenic feel as both Tyler and Emily take time out to just be kids. Those who have watched TV series Euphoria will be familiar with cinematographer Drew Daniels style that manages to perfectly balance hypo-pop colours and dizzy unfocussed scenes, with foreboding darkness that has you on edge the whole time.
The performances also couldn’t be faulted.
Director and writer Trey Edward Shults managed to bring each character into their own and really push their performances. The characters were raw, uncensored, and unapologetic. The top performance for me was Sterling K Brown who played Emily and Tyler’s father, Ronald, who managed to carefully negotiate his way from a domineering and tough as nails father, to a shattered and lost husband, to a humbled and reflective father again.
I particularly liked one particular scene between him and his wife, played by Renée Elise Goldsberry, when their relationship is coming to an end. Rather than have Ronald get angry and violent, which I feel is an easy (and lazy) way for men to display their emotion, he instead is quiet and has a defeated air about him which is rare to see for a male character. The silence from his character says more than any over the top reaction could have emoted.
For the first venture to the cinemas, post-COVID, this film was a treat and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
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