Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Waves (2020)

Summary: Traces the journey of a suburban family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.

This will be a short review.

Pros:

Cast and Characters.

  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Tyler Williams. Tyler is a high school senior, he’s on the wrestling team and he seems pretty chill but is often pushed to “do better” by his father who is a bit domineering. He goes through a lot in the film, the first act focuses mostly on him. He has choices he has to make that deal with his future and a few times it includes someone else’s future. I really like Kelvin Harrison Jr. I have seen him in a few things now (I think Luce is his best character so far) and he’s really good here. He plays Tyler with such humanity. He’s a young man who is going through a lot and just like most people, he holds it in until he breaks down from it. His face is very expressive and his scenes with Sterling K. Brown were stellar. He’s so good and I can’t wait to see a lot more from him in the future.
  • Taylor Russell as Emily Williams. She is Tyler’s younger sister and I’ve only seen her in Escape Room, which I wasn’t impressed with her in that but here, she was pretty good. We don’t see a lot of her in the first half because we’re in Tyler’s world, she gets to shine a lot more in the second half. Her life is affected by choices Tyler made in the first act and she has to deal with them. However, she also connects with Luke and has her own journey to do. I liked her but I don’t know if we got to know her the way we got to know Tyler. Taylor Russell was good though. Her best scene is with Sterling K. Brown when she’s recounting the night at the party. Great scene.
  • Sterling K. Brown as Ronald Williams. He is Tyler and Emily’s father and he’s a bit rough around the edges. He wants what’s best for his kids and he pushes Tyler a lot. He’s domineering and thinks he’s doing it to be helpful but like most adults/parents (particularly in films), he doesn’t see how it’s affecting his son. Sure, you’re the parent but your teenaged son is his own person, capable of making his own decisions and learning from consequences or successes. He still has this tight hold and I’m like “Tyler is 18, right?” at this point, you gotta let him live. Yes, if something affects his health, he should speak up but what if he’s afraid to? Get to the root of the problem, don’t be so quick to yell and condemn him. That’s Ronald’s problem in this movie, something he had to come to understand. He’s so quick to refuse to understand how someone is feeling and Sterling K. Brown is so good at this. Man, he’s such a great actor. He’s come a long way from being Gordon in Supernatural lol.
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry as Catherine Williams. She is Tyler and Emily’s stepmother and we see a lot of her when around her family. Her and Tyler seemed to have a pretty good relationship and it only seemed strained later when he starts losing control over his life. We don’t see her interact with Emily much at all and her relationship with Ronald also seemed strained. I think she was a therapist or something, not sure, but in the second half, she’s truly affected by Tyler’s choices and has changed drastically. There’s a great scene with her and Brown where he’s telling her his frustrations with her and how she’s not responding to him and she screams at him about grief. It was powerful because here he goes again. I wish we got to see more of her honestly because while she’s known for her amazing voice, she’s a great actress too.

Shoutout to Alexa Demie as Alexis Lopez and Lucas Hedges as Luke. Alexis is Tyler’s girlfriend and they’re cute. I like the beginning of the film when they’re driving in the car and it’s just blissful fun and then life happens. It was handled pretty well, and I think in their argument in the car is valid from both sides but then it spiraled into selfishness and I was confused lol but sure. As for Luke’s character, he ends up being Emily’s love interest and he was fine too. As a character, he wasn’t that interesting, but Lucas Hedges is a great actor. lol

Family Dynamic. The first half of the movie focuses a lot on Tyler, his problems, his goals and what’s happening through his eyes. Catherine is their stepmother and he seems to have a good relationship with her perhaps better than the one with his father. He and his father have their moments but often seem to butt heads. We don’t see him interact with his sister a whole lot, but they do have a great moment after he comes back from partying. In the second half, we get to see more of Emily and her relationship with their parents and her thoughts on Tyler and I think the movie doesn’t trivialize anything that happens with the family. It feels very raw.

Emotional Response. I didn’t cry while watching but the family for sure goes through some emotionally trying times. Each character has their own emotional journey, some don’t even really get to face it until the second half of the movie. Tyler has so much going on in the beginning and he doesn’t say anything, and you could relate to that. In the second half, we get more of his parents’ struggles and his younger sister. I thought the movie did a great job handling those things in a realistic way.

Cons:

Movie Flow. One of my big issues with this movie is how the story is told and unfolds. It’s split into two parts while it follows this family. The first part focuses on Tyler and the world for him and then the second part focuses on Emily and the world for her. In a lot of ways, it felt like a different movie and I decided I didn’t really like that. It felt like two separate stories pushed together. Almost like an anthology that happened to be connected. It was a big shift and I was taken off guard. I liked that it continued to follow the family, but I think the transition could have been handled better, which leads me into my second point.

Emily’s Story. As stated above this movie decides to follow Emily after Tyler and I would have been more okay with this, despite how jarring it becomes if it handled her better. Tyler and Alexis are interracial and we don’t really talk about that but we do get a talk from Ronald to Tyler about blackness and being a black man in the world and I think that’s important moments that all black families talk about, no matter the circumstances, it’s part of our livelihood. However, Emily has an interracial relationship with Lucas Hedges as Luke and it’s never brought up. I’m sure, in some perfect corner of the world, when two people from different races (with different skin tones) get together, no one bats an eye, but I think it would have benefit to be brought up. I mean, you handled, adoption, abortion, violence, teen angst, death, being black in America but nothing about a black girl and a white boy dating? It was interesting to me. Also, Emily was second fiddle in Tyler’s story but now that it’s her story, she remains second fiddle to Luke. We meet him early on being on Tyler’s wrestling team, but he doesn’t return till later and then the movie has a lot of Emily’s energy on him. Kind of weird. I didn’t care for it. They were cute but meh. I wasn’t interested in him and his family. I was following this black family and their dynamic and grief. So, because of this, we don’t really get to spend the time with the parents too following what happens because we’re spending all this time with Luke.

Dramatic. I didn’t know how to really title this, but I have thoughts on what happened between Tyler and Alexis. I don’t want to spoil anything, but they get into this argument, they don’t speak for a while and he’s going through it. Later, he confronts her, they get into another argument and something happens. It didn’t look to me like anything was done intentionally. I mean, it might have been but with how it was filmed, it didn’t look intentional to me. Yes, Tyler absolutely should face the consequences of his angered actions, but I don’t know if I completely agree with how this played out. If you know what I’m talking about here from seeing the movie, we can absolutely talk about it in the comments.

Overall, I thought the movie was very good despite some of the storytelling issues I had. The Williams family is very interesting family and I’m glad the movie decided to tell a story about a black family (even though once again there’s trauma) but the acting is great from this family. Kelvin Harrison Jr. leading the charge as Tyler is dynamic and emotional, followed by Sterling K. Brown and Renee Elise Goldsberry as his parents who have their own issues while trying to figure out their kids. Then Taylor Russell as Emily who is mostly quiet even through her part of the film but there’s a quiet strength to her. The music is movie is also really good, I remember saying “wow great song choice” during a scene. The family dynamic is one of the heart pieces of the movie with how it’s woven into each of their stories and it pushes an emotional response from the viewer. When the movie is good, it’s really good. Now, on the other hand, the storytelling elements were really jarring to me. The sudden shift from Tyler to Emily was weird and threw me off for a while and it didn’t get that much better because Emily felt like an afterthought in her own story. It might not have been intentional but that’s how it came off while watching. Also, the “dramatic” moments took me out of the movie a few times because I was like “uhhhh what??” But it’s fine lol

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you seen Waves? I believe it came out in 2019 but had a bigger release in 2020? Not sure, but I’m counting it for 2020 lol but what did you think about the film? Let me know in the comments below!

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