Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Running Time: 135 mins
Waves is an American film about a suburban family who, despite a comfortable lifestyle, find themselves wrestling with the complexities of life, love and forgiveness as they attempt to rationalise a devastating turn of fate.
A powerfully bold drama that doesn’t pull any of its punches, Waves provides deeply poignant emotion in the form of an intense, fast-paced yet impressively meditative tale of the ups and downs of life, all filmed in spectacular fashion with captivating cinematography and arresting direction.
This is more than just an average drama, as it takes on a huge range of timely and thought-provoking topics with staggering passion. And what’s more, what really makes the film stand out from the crowd is its electrifying blend of intensity and pathos, pacing itself brilliantly to deliver an undeniably enthralling story throughout.
Following the life of an up-and-coming young man being pushed by his strong-willed but well-meaning father, the film pulls you deep into the world of a well-off family from the start, and yet sets its story in motion as it begins to build a devastating snowball effect.
While the drama here often reaches terrifying extents, it all comes about through the harsh realities of chance and misfortune, bouncing from one incident to the next as things begin to get out of hand in terrifying fashion.
Through the entirety of the film’s first half, it’s an intense and at times breathelss drama, with that snowball effect turning Waves into a pulsating watch, building and building to an incredible crescendo that provides a hard-hitting and deeply poignant take on the realities of the modern world.
And then, the whole film completely changes. The first half is a rapid-fire, intense thrill ride, but the second half is a slow, contemplative piece about family, almost giving you an entirely new film to watch for the remainder of the runtime.
What’s stunning about Waves, however, is that it handles that dramatic and incredibly sudden shift of tone amazingly. Not holding back when it comes to completely changing what you’ve been expecting for the previous hour and a half, the film ingeniously uses an abrupt atmospheric shift to great effect, furthering the poignancy of the film’s first half while effectively setting up the second.
In that, Waves takes an ambitious and stunningly bold gamble, and it pays off spectacularly, then moving onto deliver an equally enthralling and emotionally resonant tale, albeit not quite as intense as before.
There’s no denying, though, that the film is absolutely enthralling from beginning to end, and delivers staggering emotional resonance whether it’s at its most intense moment, or its quietest and calmest, something that’s near impossible to pull off right, but director Trey Edward Shults somehow manages.
Beyond the story, the film also thrills with its dynamic and stylish visuals, from a vibrant colour palette to immersive camerawork that includes brilliantly characterful revolving cinematography, spinning back and forth around the characters, mirroring the instability and insanity at this point in their life in beautiful fashion.
In the lead role, Kelvin Harrison Jr. is spectacular, and gives so much more to his character than first meets the eye, while Sterling K. Brown is both relatable and captivating as his domineering father. Taylor Russell and Lucas Hedges also impress with some of the film’s more mellow and meditative performances, but the cast as a whole comes together to deliver a plethora of brilliant acting right across the board.
Overall, I was hugely impressed by Waves. A thrilling, poignant, intense and thought-provoking drama from beginning to end, it’s an unforgettable watch that drives home its most hard-hitting ideas with dazzling visuals and powerful performances throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0.