Film Review: WAVES (USA 2019)

Waves Poster

Traces the journey of a suburban family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.

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.

Film Review: IT COMES AT NIGHT (USA 2017)

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it comes at night.jpgSecure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.

Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writer: Trey Edward Shults (screenplay)
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo

Review by Gilbert Seah
IT COMES AT NIGHT begins with a taut medical examination of an older man later revealed to be Bud (David Pendleton) lying on a made-shift stretcher infested with lesions and boils. “Can you hear me?” is the question asked. After the examination, the patient is carted off, to the woods outside a boarded up shack where he is crudely wrapped up and burnt with gasoline.

It has all been done before. Despite writer/director Shults’s genuine effort of differentiating his film from the end of the world plaque infested survival horror flick, one cannot help but feel a certain similarity of events from start to end. Never mind the carefully planned shocks, the effective use of enclosed space (cinematography by Drew Daniels) and darkness and never mind the effective use of sound to scare the audience. It does not help that the script has no plot twists or has the addition of more human interaction.

The story first appears to be told from the point of view of the first family’s 17-year old teen son, Travis (Kevin Harrison Jr.) But the view shifts later on the film as Travis has less screen presence. The only survives on display appear to be his family. Order is kept in the home by his father, Paul (Joel Edgerton who also co-produced the film). His mother, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) is present and also an assortment of farm animals and dog, who are allowed in the house, apparently to prevent them from catching some deadly virus. When they venture outside, they wear gas masks. It is a test of survival. When they hear a noise from outside, Tom carefully opens the door to find another man, (Christopher Abbott) looking to find his family, in this case his wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and baby some food.

Shults does not make any effort or even need to explain his film. After the first scene (described above), the audience can correctly deduce that the apocalyptic film is in the near future. A plaque has deserted most of civilization. The family on display is surviving at all costs. As expected there are intruders from the outside. The two families ave something to share or trade. But mistrust exists and survival takes place with sacrifice of their human souls.

It is easier to make a faultless minimalist horror film like this one that a complex film with flaws. IT COMES BY NIGHT falls into the first category.
It does not help that the film does not have a happy Hollywood ending or a closed one at that. Despite all the film’s plusses, IT COMES AT NIGHT does not succeed at all as an original or absorbing drama or horror film.

Schultz, whose first feature KRISHA secured Shults some fame, which resulted in a two-picture deal with A24 films, IT COMES AT NIGHT being the first one. The film had its premiere in April this year at the The Overlook Film Festival. The film has so far, garnered favourable reviews.


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