Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is struggling under the pressure of his final year of high school. As his personal life begins to slowly unravel, he starts to spiral out of control.
There is no point trying to hide my impatience with the bourgeois trappings of cinema. There's nothing big or clever about emotional manipulation, anyone with a camera can do it. Much of art-house cinema can be boiled down to "sad people be sad, yo". But without commentary or a coherent ideological-stand point, you might as well be pointing a gun at a kitten for artistic merit.
The kicker is there is plenty to recommend in ‘Waves’. Director Trey Edward Shults and cinematographer Drew Daniels have crafted one fine-looking film. There is a good mix of camera work blended expertly within scenes. The spinning shots are especially effective as they manage to give great detail whilst also avoiding a sense of motion sickness. The way the aspect ratio changes throughout is also a great visual indicator for where characters are in their journey.
The soundtrack is also superb. On the one hand, there is a great selection of contemporary rap and experimental hip-hop and would serve as a great jumping-off point for anyone looking to start listening to these genres. On the other hand, there is an original composition provided by Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Reznor is almost unpeered in his ability to craft unsettling scores. That, coupled with the camera work, give a real sense of dread in the first half of the film, and an inescapable feeling that something terrible is going to happen but you can’t stop watching. That said it would be best if Reznor and Ross took a back seat from composing for films for a while, they are being used so frequently they are starting to verge on parodying themselves.
Unfortunately, as effective as the first half of the film is crafted, the second half more than outstays its welcome. It feels like two movies fused together, which has not worked in a film as of yet, no matter how many times Tarantino tries to do it.
It feels like it zooms past its natural ending. To explain how would be a spoiler but that sense of dread pays off and we get what seems like the final shot. If it ended there it would be a perfectly self-contained tragedy. I’m all for drastic changes in tone but it has to contain within it the same feelings and threats but in a new light. What we get is a large departure from what went before, and it is not nearly as honed and well-crafted either.
I was simply frustrated by the end of this film. It sets out no clear ideological standpoint bar maybe “families should talk more” which could be summarised much more efficiently. If you can't effectively convey your message through other means, there is no shame in just saying it clearly.