Someone described Trey Edwards Shults’ ‘Waves’ as a modern version of ‘Ordinary People’ so I know at some point there will be some kind of tragedy that will be affecting the Southern Florida family here. (Some people have also described it as similar to the television show ‘This Is Us’ so I also wondered if, just like that television show, the film would fetishize grief) The films tarts out light, but gets very intense right away. I am sometimes averse to suspense, so I spent a lot of time ‘waiting’ for the tragedy to happen, and I sense that it would affect the character of Tyler, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. Tyler is a star athlete, and prized student, and you just know there something darker looming there somewhere. When tragedy finally strikes – and it happens with great masterful storytelling – and his and his family’s world unravels, I breathed a sigh of relief. I told myself I can finally relax and ride the wave of how the movie will unfold. It is then that the second half of the film starts, and there’s a jarring change of pace and texture. While the first part is sharp and frenetic, the latter half is softer, more contemplative, tender and sensitive. The movie shifts to Emily (Taylor Russell) who together with her parents (Sterling K Brown and Renee Elise Goldberry) are left to pick up the broken pieces of their lives.
This is a movie that slowly creeps up on you. It tells stories of different kids of love – familial and romantic. It shows us how we are pushed to limits, and how those limits can also heal us. Most times, we get healing of what broke us to begin with and Shults weaves storytelling and great imagery here to put together a film that touches you. He dies a trick where the camera spins a 360 degree turn – and at first I couldn’t get why he did it, but realize that for me, it was to show that we have to look around us in every situation to understand all the aspects that make our lives what it is,
P. S. There’s a great star turn here again by Lucas Hedges. I am always amazed how he shows up and always ends up as the most valuable player in the film. He brought a lot of lightness in this film that could have turned down-y. I look forward to a movie whenever I see his name in the cast.