In Waves, the director/writer Trey Edward Shults lays it all out on the table creatively. What follows is an extremely memorable expedition to one family’s life and their emotional handling of loss. Presented with changing aspect ratios that are presumably supposed to form a wave of their own, the film hits both highs and lows. We start with a family's teenage son Tyler's (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) perspective before shifting to daughter Emily's (Taylor Russell).
Directing, directing, directing. It’s the absolute high moment of the movie starting with a twirling shots inside a car full of high schoolers. Those shots don’t end there, instead they are brought back with a lot of the action happening in cars throughout the story, each with incredibly wise decisions that place the viewer literally in the passenger seat to see the plot unravel. Russell brings out a star performance as Emily, notably in the second half as the perspective shifts on to her and her journey of an emotional growth. There’s a lovely fishing scene between Emily and Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), the kids’ dad, where Russell shines with some heartfelt acting. One thing that might go unnoticed by most is the film’s use of lights and color schemes which help bring some wow-factor for the director and cinematographer to work with.
As mentioned before, Waves uses different aspect ratios throughout and while it is creative, it comes off only as a gimmick and turned out to be quite distracting while watching. This might just be an editing or perspective issue that could’ve been handled with more vision. While Russell does thrive in the second half, it falls a bit flat compared to the explosive and exciting first half. It was a bit shame that it revolved a lot around Emily’s boyfriend, Luke’s (Lucas Hedges) storyline when the whole build up in the beginning was about the Williams family. I felt like they turned the attention to much less interesting and captivating story.
Smileys: Directing, lighting, Taylor Russell
Frowneys: Structure, ending
Waves ends up with its head above the surface, though with some breathing problems.