Very rarely does a film come along that manages to blow you away from the very first second to the last; that marriage of themes, narrative, character and filmmaking that’s a perfect, almost lightning-in-a-bottle rarity that transports you to another space and time while always feeling familiar and real. Waves, the latest from the supremely talented Trey Edward Schults – who made It Comes At Night and Krishna – is one such film that defies all odds and drops you down the rabbit hole of its story to come out the other side a different person, such is its power and magnetism. This is as special as they come.
It would be unfair to label Waves as just a coming-of-age tale or a teenage angst film – which it is, for sure – but it’s so, so much more than that and through its unique energy and intimacy this is a drama that crosses genres and subgenres, encompassing everything about modern life and its tendency to knock us when we are at our most vulnerable. Beginning with optimism and hope, we follow a South Florida family who has been built to succeed and fight for what they have by father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) which, despite his overbearing tendencies, has seen his son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jnr) get to the brink of a wrestling scholarship and potential stardom, and daughter Emily (Taylor Russell) mature beyond her years. But for all the great things that lie ahead for all of them, life moves in mysterious ways and soon, tests present themselves that change the fabric of their plotted journeys.
Starting with a sermon at their local church, the minister tells his congregation “Love is patience, love is kind, but love also forgets wrongs” and immediately, you get a sense of where Waves is going to take us on our journey, through heartbreak, stress, tests and hate but ultimately redemption and, of course, love. Such is the power of the film that it makes you start to apply it to your own life and the decisions that have shaped you, rightly or wrongly, adding a truly profound edge and changing you as much as it does those on screen.
Told through a kaleidoscopic, ever-changing lens that makes every single moment a work of true artistry, Schults has complete and utter control of what he wants to say and what he wants us to feel: that love, above all, transcends everything and that forgiveness is paramount, especially in a world that doesn’t have enough of it. It enconses you and while it may seem like too much in one story, it’s all so accomplished and beautifully orchestrated that every moment is one of utter and complete nobility and beauty.
Fuelling the film even further are a collection of performances of the highest order that elevate it into the realms of masterpiece. From top to bottom, it’s a plethora of brilliance and each cast member has at least one moment that screams “awards” but this isn’t about prizes (it would be fully deserved, mind you); it’s all about realism and finding the truth underneath it all with every single one of them – but especially for Harrison Jnr and Taylor – deserve all the praise afforded to them, as does Schults for collectively creating such a profound, human and emotionally resonant film that is as good as anything from the turn of the decade. Just wonderful.