Waves – A wave of colour, sound and emotion that ripples through the mind

Undoubtedly his most bold and ambitious film to date, director Trey Edward Shults new film Waves, oozes creativity and emotion equally. At the same time, embracing its audience in a kaleidoscope of colour, sound and movement. In a sweeping family drama that not only creates moments of devastating emotion, but also manages to sing with scenes of youthful joy.

Focusing on a single year in the life of the Williams, a middle class black American family, Waves is split into two halves. The first of these focuses on the life of Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.)and the second on his younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell). But surrounding both of these individual journey’s is the life of their loving stepmother (Renee Elise Goldsberry) and stern but loving father (Sterling K. Brown).

Our story opens with Tyler, a young and highly gifted student, who loves sport and music in equal measure. However, his father relentlessly pushes him to become the best athlete and man he can be, their relationship both strained and loving.


However, as Tylers life spins out of control through injury and relationship problems, he finds himself unable to speak to his family. Here, the ripples of Tyler’s anger circle each family member as family life changes throughout one explosive night. Shults dovetails the emotions of adolescence found in the coming-of-age genre with a far more nuanced discussion on diversity and oppression. And while many viewers may see the blame for the calamitous events surrounding Tyler as a product of toxic masculinity, and detachment from his father, the roots stretch much deeper. Here Shults weaves a tale of endemic racism and social oppression, with both parents determined to ensure their children rise above their skin colour’s forced limitations.

Built around the dramatic events of its third act, Waves flows with emotional turmoil, reconciliation and healing. By adjusting aspect ratios throughout, Shults portrays a world that is both expanding and contracting while equally playing with rhythm and colour in representing the ripples of cause, effect and outcome. But when this visual treat is dovetailed with a score that ebbs and flows with the mood on screen, Waves becomes a truly stunning work of cinematic art. Many will compare Waves to the recent work of Barry Jenkins, and these comparisons are in part justified. However, this is a film that also treads its own unique path in both design and delivery as it flows with sincerity, love, meaning and dramatic excellence.

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Cast: Taylor RussellKelvin Harrison Jr.Alexa Demie, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown

Waves is released in theatres nationwide from the 17th January 2020

Lucas Hedges also appears in Honey Boy and Boy Erased