Review of Waves (2019)


Carolina Gonzalez

Trey Edward Schults’ 2019 film, Waves, is one that has been met with incredibly mixed reviews but seems to have left a big impression on many critics. Waves, which is Schults’ third feature film, currently has an impressive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 81% and was even greeted with a Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor. 


Part One: Tyler

The film opens up by following the main character Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as he is faced with several life-changing situations after an injury threatens to end of his athletic career. Just minutes into the film, the storyline quickly begins to spiral out of control as random factors continue to be added to the story, creating a sad, chaotic, migraine-inducing mess. It feels almost as if the writers sat in a room and said “okay, let’s think of every coming-of-age cliché ever and throw it all in this 45 minute part”. Everything in the first half of the movie happens so quickly and aggressively that the viewer is never given a moment to process any of it. Ultimately, it just becomes tiring to even try and understand each random turn in the plot. While this could be a stylistic choice made by Schults to emphasize the mayhem being experienced by the main character, it’s most likely not. Other films such as Climax (2018) and Piercing (2018) are excellent examples of films that used chaotic cinematic styles to emphasize the storylines without causing the audience distress. If anything, the first part of the film is a perfect example of what careless filmmaking looks like.

Rating: 18/100


Part Two: Emily

The second half of Waves marks a peak in the film, as Schutls switches over to a more relaxed approach to the storytelling. The second part follows Tyler’s sister, Emily (Taylor Russell), as she is dealing with the aftermath of her brothers’ arrest. The story beautifully shows her life as it shifts from processing a traumatic experience to falling in love and discovering the beauty of life and forgiveness. This part serves as a complete contrast to the first half’s chaotic nature and creates a sense of vulnerability in the story that was never seen in Tyler’s. The chemistry between Emily and her love interest, Luke (Lucas Hedges), was so raw and believable that one could nearly feel it radiating from the screen. The way in which they both perfectly portray the awkwardness of intimacy and love is heartwarming and truly one of the best aspects of the film.  This part of the film was truly one of the most beautiful and realistic portrayals of the universal coming-of-age experience, and for that, it deserves so much.

Rating: 97/100


Overall the film was a strange mix of beautiful and chaotic filmmaking that didn’t compliment each other. The two-movies-in-one idea didn’t work and made the movie incredibly long. Had this movie only consisted of the second part of the film, this might have been one of the best films of 2019. Sadly, the distasteful filmmaking of the first part brought down the greatness of what could have been an amazing film.

Overall rating of the film: 57.5/100