by Justin Moore
Trey Edwards Shults has only directed three films since directing Krisha back in 2015. His follow up to Krisha, It Comes at Night, was a polarizing horror film that was met with mixed reviews. His latest film Waves is by far his best film. The film stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, and Lucas Hedges and centers on a suburban family as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the wake of a loss.
Shults is an impressive director. His directing style always feels like it is in a constant motion. Early on in the movie, Shults shows off his directing style by moving the camera in a circle to showcase the characters and their surroundings. He often resorts to that style, but it always remains unique. Even when the characters are still, the camera is always moving.
This is a simple film about family, love, loss, and forgiveness. For the first 30 minutes or so, I didn’t see what the draw to this movie was. It seemed to have no focus or structure but as the film progressed, I understood the core of the film. The family consists of four members and the younger son and daughter get most of the screen time. Kelvin Harrison Jr., who shined in Luce earlier this year, stars as Tyler, a popular high school senior on the wrestling team. He often parties with his friends. After hurting his shoulder during wrestling, he becomes addicted to painkillers. This is where the film takes a turn and becomes devastating. The film's theme of loss and love hit hard. There are so many heartbreaking moments within the second act of the film as we see Tyler become more distant from his family and more aggressive with his girlfriend. The film focused a lot on Tyler and I thought the movie was going to stay focused on him but the third act of the movie focuses on his younger sister Emily.
The film remains emotional once Emily is the center of the movie, but it manages to add some lovely moments. She connects with Luke, played by Lucas Hedges, who is one of Tyler’s teammates. As Emily is dealing with shame and rage from her brother’s actions, she lets Luke into her life, and together they enjoy themselves amidst a time that is hard for her. Taylor Russell was fantastic in her role. The moments where she is thinking about her brother’s actions are heavy and believable, so when Luke makes her happy, the smile on Emily’s face says a lot.
Waves is an emotional rollercoaster. At times I felt pure joy as Emily and Luke were building a genuine connection but I also felt completely wrecked by watching Tyler’s storyline. At the end of the film, I just sat there and watched the credits roll and thought about what I just saw. 2019 has offered plenty of great films, most coming within the last month or so, and Waves is one of the best.