Review: WAVES

Dissecting the family unit…

Bursting onto the film scene in 2015, writer/director Trey Edward Shults impressed critics with his super low budget drama, “Krisha.” Set around a Thanksgiving dinner, it was an intense drama that played like a horror movie. With the holiday upon us, “Krisha” would be a nice departure from typical festive fare. But be warned, it’s not a pleasant viewing experience.

After exploring another family dynamic with 2017’s post-apocalyptic horror “It Comes at Night,” “Waves” returns Shults to gritty, realistic drama. The story follows a high school star wrestler named Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) as he navigates his senior year. His domineering father, Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), has been pushing Tyler to over-achieve. Testosterone rules the household as the two train continuously. But when Tyler injures his shoulder, he’s hesitant to break the news to dad.

“Waves” boasts a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes. While it’s certainly not the longest film in theaters this weekend (that honor goes to Scorsese’s “The Irishman”), this one feels long. A split-narrative, part one focuses on Tyler’s story, and part two tells us about his little sister Emily (Taylor Russell). Lording over both characters is their tyrannical father. There is no doubt that Ronald means well. But he can go too far. At one point, he forcefully tells his prized son that he has to work harder than everybody else just to succeed.

The family structures present will be well-known to many viewers. Shults’ script doesn’t make any glaring false steps. However, it takes its sweet time to develop. Tyler and Emily are interesting enough, but the meandering approach weighs things down. In the film’s second half, Lucas Hedges (Oscar nominee for “Manchester by the Sea”) shows up as Emily’s love interest. They take off on a road trip that is like a completely different movie altogether.

Read the full review online and in print in the Times-Herald: https://times-herald.com/news/2019/11/dissecting-the-family-unit

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