Written and Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown, Alexa Demie, Neal Huff, Clifton Collins Jr., Krisha Fairchild, and Harmony Korine
Traces the 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.
Writer/director Trey Edward Shults trusts his vision, even if it means subjecting his viewers to a stylistic blitz of relentlessly distressing events that nearly threaten to make one walk away. Of course, as unsettling as it is, it’s also an easy decision stick with Waves, a domestic drama that balances its downward spiral into tragedy with an optimistic struggle to maintain a family’s unity. Pain is either going to bring this suburban family back together closer than ever or cause them to crumble into nothingness. It’s as uplifting as it is an uncomfortably intimate and non-judgmental look at a self-destructive breakdown.
Clearly, Trey Edward Shults deserves immense credit for not only his remarkable craftsmanship but his confidence that moviegoers will question where the loose narrative is headed instead of quitting terrorized, as does the outstanding cast that successfully elicits nearly every emotion imaginable. What really ties the film together (and is absolutely deserving of an Oscar nomination), though, is the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the former of which whom fronted his own legendary electronic rock band Nine Inch Nails that thrived with a mixture of aggressively unhinged tunes and soft, poetic lyricism. Once again collaborating, what they bring to Waves is reminiscent of their past cinematic efforts (The Social Network) whereas Trent Reznor seems to be tapping back into the kind of haunting thrashing that informed his output during the darker times of his life, fitting the ruinous rage and anger progressively emanating from Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s Tyler.
Waves is substantially challenging in various ways with no easy answers; it’s scintillating filmmaking that is designed to shatter your heart and then stitch it back together. And whatever mark it leaves will forever be imprinted on your heart.
Waves screened at the Chicago International Film Festival on October 20th.
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com