‘Waves’ will put you through a wave of heartbreak



Woman looks at man longingly. Photo credit: Myself

Alexandra Aboukhater, Staff Writer

The independent film “Waves” introduces the life of a teenager Tyler(Kelvin Harrison Jr.) a thriving high school star athlete whose family has to endure an appalling tragedy and all its elements, loss, hate, forgiveness, and empathy. Empathy is the underlying theme of the film that director Trey Edward Shults organically brings out in the story with the help of cinematographer Drew Daniels. The film captures the dynamic reality of an upper-middle-class African American family who will have to endure a painful catastrophe which forces them to become closer. Daniels’ aesthetically engaging film angles brings the audience right there with the characters going through all the burdens of loss, denial, hate, forgiveness, and empathy.

At the beginning of the movie, the lens of the film constantly is adjacent to Tyler through his intense journey of pushing himself brutally through life-altering obstructions. The painful sights of the cascading consequences of not treating his injured shoulder will make the audience attached to Tyler and seek a point of ease in his story. The premise of the story is not so much a fable where there’s a happy ending, nor does it have a devastating conclusion. When the lens of the camera is following Tyler constantly in the first half of the film the audience can sense the rawness of Tyler’s bad decisions falling on top of him, such as taking pills as a coping mechanism.

Cinematically each scene transitions fluently; the soundtrack fits perfectly with each situation and at the same time there is silence during important dialogue. Drew Daniels focuses on color theory and evokes raw emotions that play well into the soundtrack. During one of the first scenes, the camera rotates around the two lovers, Tyler and Alexis, driving on the Venetian Causeway bridge in Florida. The setting radiates a light sky-blue palette contrasting between the couple driving on a toll bridge over the water, and the tall skyscrapers of the city that seem small aside from them. The young couple carelessly stick their feet out the window, sharing intimate glances and laughing at each other’s frivolous nature.  It’s all too good to be true, but it’s a moment in the film where the audience is hooked to that feeling of tender young love. These are the moments in the story that allows the audience to become more drawn to these characters hoping things will get better.

One of the unspoken family affairs that the film innately touches upon is overly aggressive masculinity. After Tyler starts acting up, due to his shoulder injury threatening his future plans, he is filled with rage and becomes slightly disrespectful towards his father while working for him. Tyler’s father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) does not tolerate his demeanor. Instead, he boorishly tries to explain to his son the importance of working harder than his peers in order to succeed in his life as an African American in the U.S. Ronald tells Tyler, “We are not afforded the luxury of being average, we have to work ten times harder to make it anywhere in this world.” Yes, Tyler’s father had good intentions, but this advice eventually causes Tyler to push himself to where he crashes and there is no return. As a result, this affects his entire family when the tragedy hits them in their weakest spots.

Usually, the film would just end here with a tragedy, but not this time, because the story was never just about Tyler. The camera then follows Emily, Tyler’s younger sister living through the aftermath of the startling incident. Thus, Shults does a good job not forcing the audience to become attached to characters, it just happens naturally. Coping with this misfortune makes the family vulnerable around one another, but that is okay. For the first time their lives they accept the waves of the emotional burdens loss together in order to heal, which can be absolutely heart aching to see. “Waves” is a film that shows a real-life family undergoes life-changing events, things that although extreme, anyone can relate to some part of it.  “Waves” will be available in select theaters on Dec. 5th.