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“Waves” Love and Drama





Review by John Delia

Releasing the film Waves in the midst of the year’s best films is a huge gamble for the indie film. But, if the movie does get a following it should outlast several of the block busters. The film is one of those that grows on you as you leave the theater, even to the point of some challenging discussions on the choices the lead roles make.

Waves is really two films in one, a romance and a teen caught up in family matters that create a downfall brought on by drugs and alcohol. If you are an ardent filmgoer you may have seen similar stories played out on the screen, but think “revisit” if you have as there’s human lessons to be learned and mistakes to be corrected.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Taylor Russell in WAVES from A24 Films

Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr) is a high school wrestler that has been trained by his father since childhood. So much so, that he leads the league in wins creating a huge following. While his dad Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), along with his wrestling Coach Wise (Bill Wise), have been pushing Tyler to the point of psychoses. His sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and Stepmother Catharine (Renee Elise Goldsberry) have been helping Tyler to keep his head on straight, but it may be too late. Family supporters however, have no control over Tyler’s spin out and a wrestling scholarship is on the line. It’s the beginning of the unforeseen and the fight of Tyler’s life.

Kelvin Harrison Jr as Tyler and Sterling K. Brown as his father Ronald in WAVES from A24 Films

Meanwhile, Emily has aspirations of becoming a photographer and has just met Luke (Lucas Hedges) a white transfer student. The two hit it off, but although the students have no problem with the lovers, race issues are about to rear its ugly head with Emily’s father. This second story moves along at a fast pace with Emily heading for a firestorm. However, the romance between the two is extremely strong yet butting heads with Emily’s dad may be the least of their worries.

The film moves along at a fast pace finishing one story while starting the other in the midst of Tyler’s dilemma. Director and writer for the film Trey Edward Shults uses creativity to survive any déjà vu that may creep into his film. Concentrating on what’s happening in today’s society, he uses current teen angst and easy sex to offset films that may be of the similar ilk.

The acting by the whole cast is commendable, especially Sterling K. Brown as the domineering father who sees his son’s wresting as a way for him to get the college education they can’t afford. Pushing his son to a level that most champions have achieved, he feels confident that Tyler will make it. But, first he must look to other members of the family as there’s a lot of problems fluttering in his path.

Sterling K. Brown as Ronald in WAVES from A24 films

Kelvin Harrison Jr delivers a punishing performance as Tyler a teen dealing with a psychologically abusive father. You may have seen his character in real life if you attend some of the sandlot sports like Pre-teen Football and baseball. Determined to live through the boy or girl, the parent in this film shows a pugnacious desire to fulfill his own dreams through Tyler.

As for the choices that Emily, aptly played by Taylor Russell, makes embody the teens of today who listen more to friends than parents. Taking a chance of making a romantic relationship with Luke played by Lucas Hedges, a white teenager, she finds herself dealing with her father’s torment from years of discrimination. Handling it with passion for Luke, she steps into dangerous ground.

Waves has been rated R for language throughout, drug and alcohol use, some sexual content and brief violence-all involving teens.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The revealing subject matter and production quality make the film a must see. (4 out of 5 Stars) 

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Bill Wise
Directed and written by: Trey Edward Shults
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sports
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug and alcohol use, some sexual content and brief violence-all involving teens
Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.
Opening Date: December, 6 2019
Distributed by: A24
Released in: Theaters, Color

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