WAVES – A Review by Cynthia Flores


WAVES – A Review by Cynthia Flores

Waves is writer/director Trey Edward Shults’ third feature.  Taken from his and his lead actor Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s memories of high school, it is a deeply personal statement on love and loss.  The film is filled with avant-garde visual choices that affect the aspect ratio of the screen as well, a trend these past two years that I hope comes to an end soon.  It can be distracting and take you out of the moment on screen because you are paying attention to the sides of the image shrinking and expanding throughout the film.  His choice to have the consistent spinning of the camera around the actors is intriguing.  However, it can be too much at times.  Think of the first time you saw the frenetic handheld action of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, and you get my drift.  I do, however, like the director’s choice to have moments of what the actors are saying muted and not quite audible.  He can do this because the story is propelled by an exhilarating soundtrack that includes songs by Frank Ocean and Radiohead along with a mesmerizing score by the Academy Award-winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network).  Even though you can’t hear what the actors are saying in particular scenes, the cinematography and sound of the film leave no doubt about what is going on.

The film tells the emotional story of a suburban upper-middle-class African-American family.  Led by a well-intentioned but domineering father, Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), his second wife Catharine (Renee Elise Goldsberry), their son high school wrestling star Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and their shy slightly younger daughter Emily (Taylor Russell).  They must navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.  Waves also is an examination of the directors’ feelings on the issue of parental pressure and the limitations of parental love.  It shows how finding communication between parent and child, and allowing vulnerability to be expressed on both sides, is essential to the survival of both.  You can tell the director was raised by a therapist.

Shults is quoted as saying, “The film examines love in its myriad incarnations.  Tracing how, at different times, it can both push people apart and draw them together.  This is a movie about the highs and lows of love—romantic love, familial love, what it means to have a passion for something, and what happens when everything falls apart,” says Shults.  “Waves exudes an ebb and flow resembling how I think life truly feels at times.”

Waves is a heartrending story set against the vibrant landscape of south Florida.  It’s about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.  I think if you go in prepared knowing that it’s an avant-garde art house kind of film and not an easy to watch, mainstream “Hollywood Style” kind of movie, then you’ll like it more.  You’ll also love Lucas Hedges’ performance as Luke, one of Tyler’s teammates and Emily’s love interest.  Their story of first love is honest and endearing.

I give Waves a B+ rating and know that it will be talked about well after the credits roll.


Directed by: Trey Edward Shults

Written by: Trey Edward Shults

Rated R

Selig Rating B+

Running Time: 2hr 16min


Limited to Wide Release: November 27th Landmark Magnolia, Cinemark West Plano

Starring: Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Renee Elise Goldsberry


The Selig Rating Scale:

A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

B – Good movie

C – OK movie

D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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