WAVES unfolds the drama of a black family of a son trying to connect with his strict father. It is surprisingly and to the director’s credit that he is white and one would never expect such an emotional tale of black folk be told by none other than non-black folk.
Cracks begin to show in the perfect façade of a young athlete, Tyler’s (Kevin Harrison Jr.) life. Tyler is a talented wrestler living in a comfy wealthy residence courtesy of his business oriented father. He and his sister live wth him and their step-mother after their biological mum overdosed. But the future is still bright. Tyler has everything he needs: a wealthy family to support him, a spot on the high-school wrestling team, and a girlfriend (Alexa Demie) he’s head over heels in love with. Committed to greatness and under intense scrutiny from his father (Sterling K. Brown), Tyler spends his mornings and nights training. But when pushed to the limit, life changes dramatically.
Tyler sustains a shoulder injury forcing him to quit wrestling. He gets his girlfriend pregnant. He wishes the baby aborted but she refuses resulting in a huge fight. It does not help that dad is a real bully but sustains his actions by believing he is doing good. “I am doing this not because I want to…. but because I have to….” chastising Tyler.
To the film’s credit, Shults’s film is filled with such visual splendours like the colourful night run through the lawn sprinklers during one night scene, with rainbows visible in the images. There is one scene with the couple with the camera at chest level that looks like Shults is paying homage to MOONLIGHT. The scenes in the river with the fish are also stunningly shot. His soundtrack is occasionally loud and boisterous, obviously made so to be annoying and to display Tyler’s state of mind – but subtlety could also be practiced. Warning: those susceptible to headaches be best to stay away rom this movie where audibility is set several notches up, and too often in the film.
Shults’s film is a wild ride that initially takes you on and not let you get off.
The message of the film, among other things can be summed up with the statement: “The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions”. Clearly the patriarch of the family had done what he had though was best, all full of good intentions. But things do not always turn out the way they should and things can quickly go awry. Ironically, the same can be said of Shults’s over long 135-minute film. The film could have been cut 30 minutes instead of propelling on with he father’s redemption process. The message has already gone through, hard and clear and there is no need to haul the audience into the redemption process. Also the switch from the main character from son to daughter disorientates the audiences a great deal. Indeed, the road to a failed movie is also paved with similar good intentions.