Film Review – Waves

Waves (MA)

Directed by: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Taylor Russell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Life is going well for Floridian high schooler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr) until a painful arm injury threatens to end his wrestling career before it even begins.

Everything he has trained for, under the pressure of his well-meaning but overbearing father Ronald (Stirling K. Brown) who is a fan of the tough love method, and his future is suddenly jeopardised.

Tyler doesn’t have the appropriate tools to deal with the emotional turmoil of suddenly facing newly broken dreams and an uncertain future (his once loving relationship with his girlfriend also breaks down which just exacerbates the situation) and he begins to spiral on a path of self destruction, which results in an irrevocable tragedy, that he and his affluent family must deal with.

Waves is sensitively and intelligently told by writer/director Trey Edward Shults in a linear fashion, but he has put a lot of thought into the structure, with the beginning and ending mirroring each other despite switching character focus at the mid-point.

This moody film opens with hope and promise (the camera spinning around Tyler’s busy life of training and good times with his girlfriend and mates) before building almost unbearable tension until the second act tragedy, then it shifts focus to his shy younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell) where it and eases back into a sense of hope as she and her parents put their lives back together.

Shults also uses aspect ratio changes throughout his film which acts as an additional indicator of the characters’ psyche at key moments in the story.

It is an emotional and affecting journey as we watch Tyler’s spiral helplessly from the comfort of the cinema. You just want to jump in and help him.

We see his talent and potential but he (and the audience) is all too aware that he could very well one day end up like the young black man surrounded by cops outside a shop that Tyler spots out the window as he cruises past.

Co-leads Harrison Jr and Russell are exceptional as they carry their respective halves of Waves. The pair tackle the heavy and complex material with such understanding and talent and are a pleasure to experience on screen.

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