There isn’t a more fitting title for this movie than Waves — a reference to not only the movie’s quality dipping from immeasurable highs to frustrating lows, but the emotional whiplash you’ll experience more times than you can count on two hands. However, I don’t necessarily mean this as a bad thing: faults and all, Waves is an experience that’s nothing short of incredible.
If you’re looking for a relatively familiar or disposable family drama, I recommend you watch literally any movie on the planet other than this one. This is very much a movie of two distinct halves — one which has the intensity of a ticking time-bomb, the other which has the reflective meditation of a good therapy session — and it’s a unique structure which is a gamble that isn’t going to pay off for everybody. You would be forgiven for initially thinking the second half of this movie is unnecessary and an entirely different movie than the first, but the way in which it ultimately provides closure to what preceded it is honestly kind of…amazing? This is bold storytelling and filmmaking crafted by somebody who knows exactly what they’re doing, as Trey Edwards Shults guides you along the way with frenetic camera movements, changing aspect ratios, and some absolutely amazing needle drops, too. You could make the argument it all gets a bit indulgent at times with sequences that exist for Shults to just flex on us with elaborate music videos, but, like…they’re really cool, and the movie exists well enough without them that they never feel like a cheap crutch to fall on.
I’m really trying my best here to avoid spoiling not only specific plot details, but also the emotional experience of watching this movie. I guess all I’ll say is there were times it felt emotionally manipulative to the point that I genuinely hated it, but a mere scene later the movie would win me over with a scene that makes me appreciate the purpose behind whatever I was upset about. This is a family drama that’s as emotionally intense as anything you’ll ever see, and it all feels blisteringly real due to its writing and performances, all of which are so fantastic it’s actually kind of ridiculous.
The more I think about Waves the more I love it, so much so that even since I started this review it probably has climbed a spot or two on my rankings of the year’s movies. Like I said, this movie is an experience, and if you’re not ready for getting into the water and experiencing what at times can be roaring tidal waves, avoid this movie at all costs. But if you’re willing to endure a tsunami, you’ll get built back up again from the ground up in a way that you’ll never, ever forget.
“Waves” is Ben Watches Things Approved