March 25, 2020  (Web Review)

Waves

Lionsgate, 135 min., R, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $21.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

In Trey Edward Shults’s saga about an upper-middle-class African-American family in suburban South Florida, Ronald Williams (Sterling K. Brown) is a domineering father who thinks he’s doing all the right things to keep his volatile 18-year-old son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) on the right track. When Tyler decides to become a star wrestler, his demanding dad not only rigorously works out with him but insists that the family, including his wife Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) and Tyler’s younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell), attend every meet. Feeling his own voice stifled, Tyler keeps a serious shoulder injury secret, stealing his dad’s oxycodone for the pain. And when he discovers that his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) is pregnant, Tyler keeps that a secret too. Shults’s script structure suddenly changes when a tragedy occurs, marking a tonal shift to explore quiet, teenage Emily’s perspective, as she builds an emotional relationship with a new boyfriend (Lucas Hedges). Waves is ultimately a somewhat scattershot domestic melodrama centering on parent-child pressures—one that also suffers from artistic pretensions as it switches aspect ratios throughout—but the film also features some strong dramatic scenes and fine acting all around. A strong optional purchase. (S. Granger)