Films Reviews

Waves (2019) – Film Review

"incredibly beautiful"


I didn’t have high hopes for Waves going in. I felt sort of awkward on it. I’d heard mixed to good things and was only there to fill in a bit of time between University ending and a showing of Just Mercy that starts at about 16:40. I’m glad I showed up because of what a brilliant surprise it was. Waves is one of the best looking and well-acted films of this scale I’ve seen in a long time. Waves is an A24 film from writer/director Trey Edward Shults and my god, everything about it from the cinematography to the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross music that accompanies it; the film had me caught up in it from beginning to end.

It follows a Black, Floridian teen called Tyler who is pushed to his limits by his surrounding circumstances. He starts off the film living a good life but is continuously overexerting himself in an attempt to do well in sports and school, while also maintain a relationship, social life until he ultimately hits a downward spiral. The cast is excellent. Sterling K. Brown is probably one of the more prominent names in the film and is relatively ok, he plays Tyler’s father who is pushing him. You know he is only doing it because he loves him and wants the best. It is a very accurate representation of a parent who wants so much for their kid that they almost break them in the process.

The stand-out is Kelvin Harrison Jr. who brings so much to Tyler and elevates what an entirely predictable and almost played out type of story to something completely and utterly engaging. It is an incredible downward spiral of life and Harrison is brilliant.

There is a somewhat jaw-dropping twist that also leads to a perspective shift; this second half of the film is much milder and a slower burn but equally well acted and shot. Both serve different purposes and perfectly complement each other as it shows a lot of the fallout and thematically closes this movie about love, family and loss. This half also has a strong performance from A24 favourite, Lucas Hedges someone I didn’t even know was in the movie until he showed up out of what seems like nowhere.

There is also the cinematography from Drew Daniels. The film switches aspect ratio quite often to show the kind of emotional state the protagonist is going through. They shift with their changing personality, and it is an interesting technique. It gives the film a unique selling point and works a lot in its favour. Thankfully, I saw this on a screen that supported the 1:85.1 aspect ratio that it started in because I can imagine this switching not working on screens that only support 2.35:1 and ruining the experience, the curse of a multiplex. Alongside the ever-changing aspect ratio, every so often WAVES of colour wash over the screen to set a kind of mood and theme. You could quickly write something like this off as being pretentious or unnecessary, but I felt it was used with significant effect.

For some, strange and unknown reason, I felt as if I was at a film festival. The film shoots out this atmosphere that you can only really recreate in those kinds of settings. It transformed the multiplex setting I was in into someplace completely different. It could be due to the type of subject matter going on in the film or its arty-farty imagery. I might have just been in the perfect mindset to watch this film too, but it had a substantial effect on me that I can’t quite put into words. I loved it and highly recommend you seek out this incredibly beautiful film that has a lot to say if you have a chance.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Waves is in UK cinemas now!

While you’re here can I get you to have a look at our latest podcast? We go through all the Oscar nominations and make our predictions. You could also have a look at some of my other reviews!

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