REVIEW: Despite great potential, ‘Waves’ sinks because of story execution issues

When there are waves, it usually means the waters aren’t calm, and that certainly becomes the case in this movie.

Directed by Trey Edward Shults, “Waves” is a film taking place in south Florida that follows a family of four. More specifically, though, the movie centers on the son, Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Tyler, at the movie’s onset, has a lot going for him. He’s a star athlete in the midst of the wrestling season, he has a loving family and he’s in a good relationship with his girlfriend.

However, as the movie gets going, cracks begin to form in Tyler’s life and these cracks eventually lead to the proverbial dam breaking. The film follows the issues the family goes through in the events that follow.

This is a movie that had a lot of artistic flair, Shults clearly had a vision for this movie, because it’s very stylized. It also has a few fantastic character interactions that feature wonderful acting. This movie did have a lot of good going for it. As a result, it pains me to say that it was a rather frustrating film to sit through.

Courtesy A24

What hampers “Waves” quite a bit is its narrative structure. The way it builds to a certain event, or events for that matter, come across as a tad rushed. What’s worse, though, is that the film becomes a tale of two halves, and completely switches main characters in the latter portion. It comes across as so jarring to the point where the movie never truly recovers.

It also doesn’t help that some major characters disappear in the second half and a new subplot begins that doesn’t have nearly enough time to be truly fleshed out. It’s understandable the point the movie was trying to make in this regard, but story-wise, it just didn’t come together.

It’s a shame, because the movie really does have scenes with brilliant acting. Sterling K. Brown, for example, is incredible as the father of the family, Ronald. Brown has so many fantastic moments in this movie where he really gets to show off his acting chops.

Taylor Russell, meanwhile, who’s mostly had smaller roles up until this point, completely shines in her role here as Tyler’s sister Emily. Russell has the most emotionally charged sequences in the picture by far and every time she knocks it out of the park.

“Waves” looks fantastic, too. Drew Daniels, the movie’s cinematographer, creates an atmosphere that’s almost hypnotic and draws a viewer’s eyes in. So many moments are well crafted, with interesting shots and wonderful lighting.

There truly is a lot of style here. It has a clear visual identity and some amazing performances. Yet it falls so short in the storytelling that it becomes frustrating to sit through. There are good elements here, but it didn’t come together. 2.9 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: