Waves ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The Tree of Life, where Shults first worked and learned from Malick, is my favorite movie ever. I gave Krisha 5 stars, and thought It Comes at Night was a really well-made, under-appreciated genre exercise.  Waves might have my most-watched trailer ever. Needless to say, I went in with expectations.

Unfortunately, I came away feeling like this was just one big missed opportunity, especially story-wise. To me, Sterling Brown and Kelvin Harrison carry the film. Harrison’s Tyler is extraordinarily compelling, and watching his tragic path and its effect on his father was gut-wrenching.

I wish the movie had kept following them. Taylor Russell gives a good performance, and the idea of the second half at least incorporating her experience with pushing forward is theoretically compelling, but I really don’t care for how this was executed or the fact that Tyler’s essentially dead to the film once he’s sinned.

If we’re to assume there is any sort of thesis to this film it’s gotta be about forgiveness, right? Then how are we going to essentially cut the character who needs it from the film once he has transgressed? Why do we need to introduce a new character, only to have him exposit about someone in his life who’s shitty before learning to forgive him? We already had a story that we’d been watching and investing in where this arc could have manifested.

The second story is tonally off and meandering. The story loses its thread entirely and digresses, never to return. I don’t feel comfortable commenting much on the racial aspect, but let’s just say that I feel kind of icky about the white character who literally appears out of nowhere being the one who gets the primary catharsis. 

I like a lot of the music that was used, but it was used with zero subtlety and often felt forced into scenes. It felt like Shults’ Spotify Top Songs of the Year playlist scattered indiscriminately over the course of a film. Chance’s How Great literally has no place in the scene where it is used. When songs don’t seem placed randomly, they’re so on-the-nose as to be cringe-inducing.

This had some of the elements of a great movie. Just not enough of them, and not placed together correctly.