Kevin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry
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…a stylish, moving film that’s more than worth a look…
As the world falteringly starts to return to normal, skittish as a rescue cat, so too does the humble cinema begin to show movies again, picking up where we left off before, you know, stuff. One of the first is the stylish drama flick, Waves, from Trey Edward Shults, who last gave us the solid, but oddly-marketed It Comes At Night (2017), and the result is impressively atmospheric, but lacking in certain areas.
Waves is essentially a drama about a family, The Williams, set in present day America. We begin the tale following popular jock, Tyler (Kevin Harrison Jr.), who seems to be absolutely winning at life. He has a gorgeous girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), a devoted-albeit-overbearing father, Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), and a step-mum who loves him, Catherine (Renee Elise Goldsberry), not to mention a sister who supports him from a distance, Emily (Taylor Russell). But scratch the surface and we see that what lies beneath the perfect facade is a different story, and soon the foundations of Tyler’s life begin to crack and crumble.
It’s not the freshest of premises for a drama – we’ve seen this kind of thing a thousand times before – but what Waves offers is absolutely stunning direction from Shults. The intense roaming camera, the vivid colour palette, the use of sound and music (from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, no less) make this a present and feverish experience. Combine that with genuinely stellar performances from every cast member and you’ve got the makings of a classic on your hands. However, around the halfway mark, Waves stumbles, choosing to use a narrative device that might have worked if it had been employed half an hour earlier.
In practical terms, Waves feels like two very good, but overlong, drama films smushed together. It’s also saddled with a rather blunt script, making the 135-minute opus play at times like the world’s most stylishly-directed after school special. There are shades of Requiem For A Dream in some moments, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong to an almost absurdly overwrought degree. That said, the performances alone make Waves worth a look, with Kevin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell delivering particularly superb work.
It’s not subtle, and it could have lost twenty minutes easily, but Waves is a stylish, moving film that’s more than worth a look, and a decent reason to return to the much missed picture house.