Waves ★★★

Growing Pains Challenge
2020 First Time Watches Ranked

"It's so much. There's so much to push through."

Sigh. This is a frustrating one. The performances from a truly gifted cast are uniformly exhilarating. Kelvin Harrison Jr.'s raw fury is astounding, proving yet again that his career will hopefully go the distance. Sterling K. Brown, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Lucas Hedges, and virtually everyone else deliver some beautiful portrayals. With regard to the talent, Trey Edward Shults succeeded. It's virtually everywhere else that he overplayed his hand. The film itself plays like A24's answer to a contemporary after school special. It's an exhausting, inconsistently paced, and mind-bogglingly hamfisted yarn that I got the sense that, in more nuanced hands, could have been breathtaking. Had Schults elected not to bite off more than he could chew, he could have perhaps turned the film's touching final act into its own feature. Everything that precedes it is turned up to 11, stranding the cast in a cacophonous quagmire overflowing with indulgent flourishes that are difficult to appreciate and all too easy to dismiss as amateurish. It's a downright shame that Shults's terrific It Comes at Night is the only of his three films with restraint. I still have hope he can mature in interesting, more measured ways. Whatever the case though, I just hope he doesn't give into the temptation to take up exploitative sensationalism the way too many promising filmmakers have done lately.

P.S. This features yet another solid score from virtuosos Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. It doesn't reach their highest highs (see their most recent work on HBO's superb Watchmen) but it's still one worth lauding. The rest of the film's roaring soundtrack is worth checking out as well but the two unfortunately do not mesh well.

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