Posted Jan 21 2020

Waves - This Movie Quietly Rocks

Dir: Trey-Edward Shults

Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr, Talor Russell, Lucas Hedges,  Alexa Demi, Sterling K Brown, Renee Elise Goldsberry

The second film set in Florida this week, but Waves is a very different kettle to Bad Boys 3.

Shults’ latest (itself something of a complete turnaround from the filmmaker’s previous, It Comes At Night) is an often meditative portrait of a middle class black family, initially incidental, but with an always brooding sense of impending event. Harrison Jr impresses greatly as high school wrestler Tyler, determined to succeed and always pushed by his well-intentioned but ultimately far too competitive and over bearing father – the always excellent Brown.

What begins as a minor injury for Tyler quickly spirals into a career threatening situation, a decline into stolen painkillers, alcohol and inevitably, a form of tragedy.

At this point, Shults shifts his film to focus on Tyler’s younger sister Emily (a superb Russell) as she and her family struggle to recover from recent events, in her case by retreating from her home life and into her new relationship with Luke (Hedges.) The film hits a quieter note in this latter half, but one that is nonetheless captivating, beguiling even at times.

Shults uses his camera to swoop and probe his characters and their worlds – from their bedrooms to their cars to their school hallways. Always in motion, his absorbing film is also awash with wall to wall music, whether it be a collection of needle drops that run from Radiohead to John Legend and more, to yet another compelling score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Visually, Waves is awash with the light of Florida, whether it be the dazzling sunshine of the daytime, or the neon beauty of its nightlife. But, ultimately, it is an understated film about family, and mistakes, loss, love and the need to work towards some form of redemption. Or at least, understanding and acceptance. Quietly moving.

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