Waves is a rip current of devastation, trauma, heartache, love, and forgiveness which will wreck you. Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults leaves no stone unturned in this tale of an American family’s descent into the worst of times. Yet Waves isn’t about losing everything. Shults shows audiences that even in the darkest of times, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Now, this film isn’t for the faint of heart and is certainly a tough watch. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to yell at the screen as if Tyler (played by the brilliant Kelvin Harrison Jr.) could hear ya. That’s the beauty of Waves; it’s a very intimate and personal experience.
In terms of the narrative, the best thing is to go in with as little schema as possible. All anyone needs to know is that Waves chronicles a suburban family navigating some of life’s most unpredictable moments. The ensemble is strong with standout performances from Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr, and Taylor Russell. Brown is certainly no stranger to gutwrenching roles. His performance as Ronald (Tyler’s domineering father) was so nuanced and played an essential role in this narrative. Harrison’s performance as Tyler was brilliant and a joy to witness. After turning in dominant performances in Luce and Waves, award season voters need to take a long look at nominating him. Without Tyler’s character arch, Waves would have been a lifeless tale. Taylor Russell will likely be regarded as a breakout star once Waves is widely released. If Tyler’s character arch injects life into this tale, then Emily’s is the emotional backbone of the film.
Overall, Waves is a beautiful experience (if you don’t mind having your heart ripped out, destroyed, and rebuilt). Very few films this year will fully envelop and audience like the latest from Trey Edward Shults. Is that the mark of a good movie? No, it means Waves is one of the best this year.