USA / 2019 / 135'
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writer: Trey Edward Shults
Stars: Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges
Top Ten Films of 2019 – National Board of Review, USA. Another 10 awards and 38 nominations.
Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike, Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.
Since premiering at the Telluride Film Festival in September (and playing in competition at the Toronto International Film Festival days later), Waves has surfed into awards season on a current of swooning reviews; as of this writing, it boasted an 88 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sasha Stone wrote in The Wrap: "[Shults's] camera expresses the internal worlds of its subjects with such intimacy you almost forget it's there — until you are hit with another glorious, breathtaking shot." Barry Hertz of Canada's Globe and Mail focused more on Waves' horrorlike capacity to induce dread and loathing. "I fear others may be anxious to call it some sort of #woker Manchester by the Sea, noting how both films pivot on grief and feature standout performances from Lucas Hedges," Hertz wrote. "But for most of its running time, and with swirling camerawork that will spark nausea among some audiences — Waves is as anxiety-inducing as any other journey into the dark and unknowable."
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the film's score. The film's soundtrack features a compilation of contemporary rap, R&B, alternative, and experimental pop music from artists including Animal Collective, Tame Impala, Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, The Shoes, H.E.R., Tyler, the Creator, Fuck Buttons, Amy Winehouse, Kanye West, THEY., Kid Cudi, Colin Stetson, SZA, Chance the Rapper, Radiohead, and Alabama Shakes. According to Shults, around 80 percent of the songs eventually heard in the movie were written into the script with hyperlinks allowing readers to hear the music as they read through the pages.
That rare cinematic achievement that innovates at every turn. Movies of this caliber come along seldom to never. – Peter Deburge, Variety
Russell's performance is like a rush of wind on a dry, hot day, the blessing you didn't know you needed. – Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine
Further evidence that Shults, at 30, is one of the most versatile and gifted young filmmakers working today. – Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter