A Big Wave of Emotion

By Ignacio Perez ’20

The credits rolled while I remained glued to my seat, unable to comprehend what I had just witnessed on screen. I hadn’t fully realized the impact of the movie until I was out of the theater, stunned.

Waves left me speechless.

It was unique in this aspect. Rarely do I watch a movie that evokes such emotion conveyed so fully by the actors, script, and even the cinematography; everything comes together nearly perfectly. Waves is not just a coming-of-age movie. It is a story of hate, forgiveness, and acceptance not just about the teenagers but their parents as well, and the film does it all with the confidence of a seasoned director. Yet, this is only Trey Edward Shults third movie.

The film revolves around a high school senior, Tyler, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., who struggles with his identity after losing nearly everything that matters to him while his sister, Emily, played by Taylor Russell, deals with the fallout of her brother’s actions. The movie is constantly building up to a meaningful scene and then deescalating the repercussions while the audience recovers from what had transpired on screen. The majority of the anxiety and tension the main characters feel the audience feels as because of the cohesiveness of the performances, dialogue, and cinematography. This is one of the reasons the movie is so great. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the utilization of different aspect ratios for different moods and perspectives during the film. When Tyler gets angry a narrow aspect ratio floods the screen, and when Emily has a thoughtful and eye-opening moment, the aspect ratio transitions to a wide ratio. On the topic of cinematography, Shults is able to perfectly capture the emotions of the actors with long, breathtaking takes that linger longer than the audience is comfortable to bear, but these uneasy scenes are what make the movie so impactful, capturing the emotion of the characters so beautifully. Every little frown, tear, and wrinkle is intimate, allowing for the viewer to undergo a similar experience by sympathizing with these aching protagonists–to the point of tears. 

The memorable moments in the movie are created not only by impressive camera work but by remarkable acting. There is not one moment in the entire movie where I was pulled away from the experience because of a shoddy piece of dialogue or delivery. The acting is realistic, and on top of that, it allows for these moving moments to come forward. Moments such as the bathroom scene and the garage scene are all striking and unforgettable segments of the movie. Both Harrison Jr. and Russell impart powerful performances along with their onscreen father, played by Sterling K Brown. The incredible acting stems for the extraordinary script.

High school movies often have impractical dialogue that is wildly far from how an actual teenager would talk. Waves is not one of those movies. The script is so well written that entire scenes feel inspired from real life events that could possibly take place in any young adult’s life. This allows for the relatability that makes the movie great. 

Waves is an incredible movie that anyone can enjoy because of its relatability and cohesive qualities in its cinematography, script, and acting. Its tale of forgiveness and anger is one that everyone can learn from, young or old. 

Rating: 9/10