“Waves” goes from bad to unbearable within the first hour; however, the second half of the film remarkably heals itself.
Director/writer Trey Edward Shults wrote “Waves” after his critically acclaimed thriller, “It Comes At Night”. He continues to keep our tensions high with his new family drama. It’s a story he explained that, “was inspired from a number of real life experiences, including meeting my girlfriend and Kelvin Harrison Jr.”
As the film begins we meet Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). He’s a senior in high school who as it all: Popularity, a hot girlfriend (Alexa Demie), and star wrestler. Life at home isn’t too shabby either. His father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) owns his own construction business, his mother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) is a counselor, and his sister Emily (Taylor Russell) is quiet and reserved, hiding in the shadow of her brother.
Though Tyler is pretty well off, we come to discover his father is constantly pushing him both physically and mentally. He puts a lot of pressure on Tyler to be the best; pointing out that because the family is African American they don’t have the luxury of being average. So when Tyler learns of his shoulder injury, which would end his wrestling career, he decides to hide it and self-medicate. Matters only get worse when his girlfriend reveals she is pregnant.
You might think you know what happens from there, but you don’t. And you’re going to find out here.
By the second half of the film the family is barely keeping it together, and suddenly we’ve gone from Tyler’s movie to Emily’s. She is even more introverted, and doesn’t seem to have any friends at school. That is until she meets Luke (Lucas Hedges), an awkward, but nice boy who also wrestles. The film completely shifts in tone as we see love blossom in a steady and beautiful manner. Emily and Luke’s relationship is the cure we need after an unnerving first half.
Shults wanted to essentially split the film in two and show the dichotomy of our lives. “I wanted audiences to see, in it’s structure, separate views from a male and female. How different they handle conflict, and what are their highs and lows,” Shults elaborates.
Both Tyler and Emily continuously use Instagram in a way that make us question our own use of the app. It’s a way to track a significant other’s location, stalk a crush and, of course post lots of pictures. “I was trying to make it real and honest. I don’t have social media anymore, but I can imagine how it would feel to have one. I’ve even followed crushes, but in an appropriate way (Laughs).” explains Schults.
At the core, “Waves” is a film about family. The parents are connected to both Tyler and Emily’s stories, especially their father. Ronald is more invasive in Tyler’s life and almost absent in Emily’s. This raises the question, what is the right balance of a parent’s involvement in there children’s lives? Schults went on to answer, “It’s hard to say what’s the right amount of involvement, but for this movie communication is big. It’s important that parents make their kids feel like they can always come to them for anything. It sounds easy, but it isn’t.”
As the film comes to an end, a shattered family struggles to put themselves back together. What you witness will make you want to embrace your own family and loved ones. Schults’ hope is that audiences will “connect with the complex characters, and have a lot to think about. And maybe even give them hope in their own lives”
“Waves” is a tough start. But if you allow yourself to stay on this emotional roller coaster, it will be a ride worth taking.
“Waves” opens in theater November 27 (Playing at Landmark Magnolia & Cinemark West Plano)
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