TIFF Review: Waves


Directed by Trey Edward Shults

Starring Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Sterling K. Brown and Lucas Hedges

Synopsis: The lives of the Williams family is irreversibly changed after a major life event.

My thoughts: Garnering massive acclaim from the Telluride Film Festival, Waves is a heart-wrenching tale of love, tragedy, and forgiveness told in two halves. The first half focuses on Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), the son of Ronald and Catherine (Sterling K. Brown and Renee Elise Goldsberry) and brother to Emily (Taylor Russell). He is the star athlete on his high schools’ wrestling team and has an amazing girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie). As the film progresses, Tyler is handed a series of personal and academic setbacks, and he struggles with how to deal with this while on the path of perfection his father presses on him. After going one step too far, Tyler’s life is in shambles, and the focus of the film switches from him to the effects his actions had on his family, specifically Emily. 

Hats off to Trey Edward Shults for this ambitious endeavor that works on many levels. Shults, who wrote, directed, and co-edited the film, gives you an emotional gut-punch while uplifting you by the end. This is a reflective film on how we treat others, the decisions we make, and the effects they have on the people we love. Kelvin Harrison, Jr. has his second standout role this year (the first being the titular character and Sundance darling Luce). We as the audience are put through the same wringer he is, and you feel for him even though he makes one poor decision after the other. The entire cast has amazing chemistry, including all those already mentioned, as well as Lucas Hedges as Emily’s boyfriend who is dealing with his own family crisis. 

The film drops on a dime from Tyler’s half that once you get to Emily’s you don’t get to decompress. You may ask yourself what exactly the focus of the film is and where it is going while you’re watching how Emily is handling this major life change. This is my only complaint, and it’s a minor one for me personally, but this may be a bigger issue for some. 

The Verdict: Another feather in the cap for A24 and everyone involved with the film. My grade for Waves is an A-, and it is scheduled to be released on November 1st.    

Author: Sean Blanford

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