I walked into Waves not knowing what to expect. I didn’t get much from the trailer except it looked colourful and dramatic. The synopsis didn’t give me much either but it was £3 at the BFI so there wasn’t really a reason to say no.
Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike, Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family — led by a well-intentioned but domineering father — as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.
Halfway through the movie, I was ready to get — ASAP. The movie took such a dramatic turn, it took everything in me not leave but I’m glad I stayed. If you’re yet to watch it (and this is spoiler-free) the movie splits into two halves; the before and the after. I left the cinema feeling a type of way that I wasn’t able to pinpoint until a few days ago. And now, I’ve formed my own opinion based on that one watch because there’s absolutely no way I’m going back to rewatch (I do not mean this in a bad way).
On my first and only watch, based on what I can remember, I’m giving it a solid 7/10. Which, is pretty high and maybe if I gave it another go, would change or remain the same but for now, 7/10 it is.
- I enjoyed the split in the middleness of the movie. It was a bold decision to tell different stories and narratives through one event but personally I think it was a good one. It allowed the characters grow and blossom, especially Emily (Taylor Russell) who is more like a shadow in the first half. It allowed the actors explore their range. And they were bold, daring (word to Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and in doing this [before and after] I got something different instead of the same narrative.
- The performances. Honestly, shout out to the actors because the emotions were so palpable and raw, it physically hurt at times. It’s an impressive cast featuring Sterling K. Brown, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Alexa Demie, Lucas Hedges and Taylor Russell. Kelvin Harrison Jr shines a lot more in this role than he does in Luce. The tension between him and on-screen father, Sterling K. Brown is incredible (when you see that scene, let me know). But Taylor Russell, as Emily. The decision to focus on her in the second half and given the context for her behaviour, Russell’s performance really saved the rest of the movie for me. She and Hedges, were the breath of fresh air I needed after such a trying first half.
- Aesthetic. It’s been compared to Moonlight at nearly every opportunity based on its colouring and location. And that’s a fair point but it’s important to see movies in their own light and Waves shines brilliantly in its own. Accompanied with the soundtrack as well? Gorgeous.
- The director: This movie which focuses on an African-American family is directed by a white guy, Trey Edward Schulz. People are in two minds about it, myself included. I’m not a fan of white people narrating or writing black stories. And I have not lived an African-American so it’s not for me to say how authentic the experience was. An interview with Kelvin regarding this can be found here.