When it comes to movies it is amazing what the right song can do to a scene. The years are filled with perfect needle drops that turn something that might be otherwise be forgettable into something that becomes iconic. It is not just scenes though, music has a way of completing a movie in ways few other things can. Music is how Trey Edward Shults moves you through what is going on in his new film Waves, where he sets the table with his choice of music for what is going on and what is about to happen as his story unfolds.
For Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr), he is kind of a big deal. He is a star on his high school wrestling team and has a girlfriend in Alexis (Alexa Demie) who seems to complete him, it looks like he has it all. At home Tyler lives with his father (Sterling K. Brown), his mother Catharine (Reneé Elise Goldsberry), and his sister Emily (Taylor Russell). From everything you see, Tyler’s home life is ideal, he has a family that supports him, even if his father might push him a little too hard. That push though contributes to Tyler trying to fight through a shoulder injury, where he uses his father’s pain pills and alcohol to help him go forward. Things really start to become hard when he finds out he needs surgery that will end his season on the mat and things between him and Alexis become more eruptive. For how bold Tyler is, his sister Emily is the opposite, as she is more reserved. An event though forces her deeper into her withdraw, but she meets Luke (Lucas Hedges) who starts to bring her out as they share common feelings. All of this happens to the perfect soundtrack of this family’s life, through the good and the bad, they always try to remain a family.
From the opening ten minutes of the film as we follow Tyler through, what seems like a day in the life, you know you are in for a ride as it goes on. What you don’t know is where you will be taken, from the highs and the lows of life that make you feel every one of those feelings. Shults delivers a visual treat as he uses music, the camera, and even the aspect ratio to provide what he is trying to make you feel and hear. The cast is incredible, led by Brown and Harrison Jr. , but it might be Russell’s performance that provides the heart the movie so often relies on. There are more than a few times that you will be left speechless with what you are seeing on screen as you go through the whole gauntlet of emotions. Quite simply this movie is going to bring some tears. With Waves Shults delivers one of the better films about family you will ever see that is unpredictable and a true portrait of the American family. There are few films that touch you like this one as it feels like it reaches into your soul. Films like this just simply don’t come around that often.