Waves - B
Rated R, 135 minutes
The intense , compelling new drama "Waves" is from director and writer Trey Edward Schults ("It Comes at Night"). The very ambitious narrative is intended to pack a wallop, and it does on several occasions, which is both its strength and chief flaw.
"Waves" traces the journey of a South Florida suburban family - led by a well-intentioned but domineering father ("This is Us's" Sterling K. Brown), along with a nurturing stepmom (Renee Elise Goldsberry) and two very different siblings Tyler and Emily, ("Luce's" Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell) - as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the face of tragedy.
Shults' "Waves" is clearly a metaphor for the various complexities that we're faced with, both physical and emotional. Shults handles these issues well, and it unfolds into one of the most intense acts seen in a film in some time. Split into two distinct halves, the first deals with Tyler and his associated troubles, followed by a more leisurely yet emotional second half, which deals with Emily's new love (Lucas Hedges, well-used here) as she grapples with the aftermath of Tyler's tragic circumstances.
Shults' chief strength as a new filmmaker is his ambition and ability to draw you into the story, and he does so as well as he did in his 2017 horror hit "It Comes at Night." The intensity and emotion in that first half is palpable, but it can also be slightly overwhelming to its audience, and could keep any repeat viewings of the film to a minimum.
It's superbly acted by its talented cast, including Harrison, Russell, Goldsberry, Hedges (who provides some humorous relief here in the second half) and in particular Brown, who's superb as the controlling but well-meaning father who loses his grip on his marriage and family. The solid photography from Drew Daniels and the contemporary musical rock score from Oscar-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross ("The Social Network") adds some flow and texture to the film.
"Waves" is a well-made, affecting drama that may leave you exhausted and a tad pensive in some of the many themes it tackles - love, forgiveness, death and even addiction - but it's also a compelling look at American family life. Worth a look, and possible accolades for Brown's stellar turn and for Reznor and Ross' score.