Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review: Waves

Release date: November 15, 2019
Running time: 135 minutes
Starring: Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie 

Waves follows a suburban black family that seems to have everything going for it, but a series of misfortunes derails what used to be a perfect life.  How this family deals with these misfortunes, and the real emotional connections between them form the core of this movie.  And what a movie.  The emotions in this film are raw, mixed, explosive, and altogether very human.  

Waves just does everything right.  It is an emotional roller coaster, and a lot of that is helped by some stellar acting.  The entire family is amazing, headlined by Kelvin Harrison Jr. as their young son, who has the world in his hands.  He exhibits so much emotion, both good and bad, that it is a treat to watch.  He really carries much of the film and forms the crux of the plot.  His character exhibits so much about growing up: with high expectations and a feeling of invincibility, and of knowing that only you can fix the problems before you.  His sister, Taylor Russell, is a very different character, but likewise shows the depths of emotion that our youth experience.  Her father, Sterling K. Brown, is simply phenomenal as a father who has a strong emotional core but also is a relentless head of the household pushing his son to be the best he can be.  His mixed character of a loving, devoted father who is also disciplined and demanding is a very interesting one to watch.  And some of his writing and the lessons he gives to his family are insightful.  Seriously, I loved seeing a family that talked and interacted like this; it highlights some really great dialog and also good examples of people who have different approaches to very difficult situations.

Waves's story helps to create this emotional roller coaster, with very high highs and very low lows.  It rolls back and forth like the waves that give this movie its title.  The story demonstrates both the folly and boundless optimism of youth.  And this is helped along by some some a really wonderful soundtrack.  It has good, modern music to help set the scenes, but it also has fantastic timing.  During one truly emotional scene, the beats on the soundtrack were matched up with the sounds happening around the characters that really added a lot to the experience.  And the cinematography is also amazing, with a very economical and deliberate shot choice.  Scenes are composed to have exactly what they need to tell the story and are beautifully chosen.  Also, the use of lighting helps immensely, especially during the scenes where police are on the scene.  Their flashing lights illuminate the characters perfectly when needed.  

Waves is simply a treat: an emotional roller coaster about a suburban black family with phenomenal acting, insightful writing, and a story that demonstrates the folly and boundless optimism of youth.

Watch it.

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