Trey Edward Shults directs Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown in this teen drama where a young black wrestling jock’s perfect life starts to unravel and his sister is left discombobulated by the aftermath.
The rare joy of going to see a film with little to no idea of what is going to happen. I was impressed by Shults’ post-apocalyptic thriller It Comes At Night and all I knew taking my seat was this was his next release. What unfolds is unpredictable, chaotically so. One of Waves pleasures is it could go any which way. We see Tyler slowly cracking up as pressures come in from all side but have no idea what his redemption will be. The film is so overwhelmingly colourful, noisy and frenetic (scenes skip forward before they are fully finished like a faulty CD) we are given no choice but to just submit to its bleak unfolding. There’s no respite to second guess it or figure out where exactly all this erratic stress will land. Then it pulls off a particularly difficult narrative switch… the lead tags another character in as our central focus. It works here, and the change of pace and outlook is reformative. Waves is a bit too messy and indulgent to be seen as a true success. And it would appear that Trey Edwards Shult wants to put his name on every production credit… I’m pretty sure some of those shared ones are undeserved. You’re a director, you are going to be in the room, but let the technician who executed the task have their dues for their job, please. And the soundtrack is very much what an adult man thinks the cool kids are into. But I think this will mean a lot to teens who discover it. And there’s enough magic, thump and genius here that I might revisit it before films I enjoyed far more easily. Harrison puts in another great turn (see: Luce) and Sterling K. Brown relishes his best role since his showy breakthrough in American Crime Story.