Waves Movie Review
Beautiful and emotionally searing, Waves is one of the most powerful movies you’ll see all year—and easily one of 2019’s best. An exploration of tragedy and recovery, this vibrant drama from Trey Edward Shults is well worth the price of admission.
A movie that seemingly combines the visual energy of Shults’ It Comes At Night and the emotional impact of his feature-length debut Krisha, Waves begins with Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a high school athlete who pushes his body past the limit, setting into motion a series of bad decisions that spirals his life out of control. Affected are his parents (Sterling K. Brown and Renee Elise Goldsberry) and sister (Taylor Russell), who is seeking her own path in life.
Waves grabs you from the first second and proceeds to ripple through your body for its entire runtime, even if it often feels as if Shults is reaching for and tightening his grip on your throat. The enthralling cinematography by Drew Daniels and mesmerizing score by Trent Reznor make for a one-two punch, one that strikes with incredible accuracy and strength.
Harrison’s intense performance is impressive, but it’s Russell who steals the show, delivering a powerfully engaging performance that should rank among the year’s best. Both are terrific and perfectly cast in their respective roles.
The movie’s stark pivot halfway through takes some getting used to, with the first half notably more gripping than the latter—even if the latter resonates more on an emotional level, its shockingly different tone and focus significantly more relatable, more optimistic. Not everyone will see it that way, though; it’s a jarring turn, and kudos to Shults for his boldness.
Waves is one of the best movies of 2019, a tragedy that refuses to be defined by darkness.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.