What Not To Do

Stars: Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Taylor Russell
Director/Scriptwriter: Trey Edward Shults
Composers: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Cinematography: Drew Daniels
Rating: R for violence, profanity, drug use and sexual content
Running Length: 135 Minutes 

“Waves” can be a word of several meaning.  In this film, it is part of one love scene with two people in an ocean, and in another, waves of emotion that flood someone who realizes a tragic mistake.  Director/scriptwriter Trey Edward Shults gives us a story of denial, family pride and dealing with an aftermath.  

We are introduced to the world of Tyler, a teen who has a father, Ron (Sterling K. Brown from “This Is Us”), step-mother, Catherine (Renee Elise Goldsberry from “Hamilton”), a sister Emily (Taylor Russell from “Lost in Space”) and a girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie). Tyler is energetic and almost always in training as he is a wrestler, and coached and pushed by his Dad to be the perfect wrestler. Tyler, however, is hiding a secret that will affect everyone like tossing a pebble into a pond. If that weren’t enough, and with dramatic black-outs, the story goes from Tyler to Emily, and her new friend, Luke (Lucas Hedges from “Honey Boy.”) The term “worlds come crashing down” is appropriate here, as lives go from busy with school activities to heartache.  

The film is told as a television film, with breaks and you almost expect a commercial here. This can slow an audience from putting together the story of Tyler, and then the story of Emily. The jump from one “scene” to another is abrupt.  The soundtrack by composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross adds to scenes in some places and distracts with others, making it sometimes difficult to hear the actors. Part of the photography work was the up-close, tracking camera, which brings the audience near, but, not always able to hear dialogue.  

For acting, Kelvin Harrison, Jr. goes into the role of Tyler who has two faces, one for his family and the other he looks at every day in a mirror.  How to hide what he feels inside? Taylor Russell’s Emily, is a girl who has to grow up in a hurry and start to direct her own life. It is interesting to watch Taylor and Lucas Hedges as they form a friendship without outside distractions.  Sterling K. Brown’s father figure seems to step back from his son, though the mother-figure (Renee Elise Goldsberry) has more compassion for the children. Alexa Demie as Alexis is the girlfriend who doesn’t seem to be able to make up her mind. 

In “Waves,” the audience sees things that can propel teens into the wrong activity. Drugs are there in medicine cabinets and liquor is handy. Parents see what they want to see in their children, not what is really going on. By having the audience see what is available to these teens, you know somewhere in the film will be “a moment.” And there is. 

Be aware that “Waves” has continuous flashing lights in some scenes. 


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner