From a distance, they look perfect, don’t they?
He is a self-made man, fit, impeccably dressed, and a model father…
She is a loving mother, a caring partner, accomplished, stylish and attentive…
And their children, a boy, and a girl, the kind of teenagers everyone wants: on the right track to do great things in life…
How many times have we sat and considered families like the one depicted in writer and director Trey Edward Shults’ remarkable new film WAVES and found ourselves filled with envy, admiration, or longing? If only our family could be more like theirs, we wonder as we watch them at Mass, across the soccer field or in a crowded restaurant. They really have it all, we tell ourselves.
And so it seems for Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Alexis (Alexa Demie)…they “have it all”, right? We are invited into their home and lives as observers of what seems to be an idyllic upper-middle-class existence in South Florida. From the start, we’re swept up into a cacophony of light and music and energy as Shults employs magnificently creative camera angles and weaves music into the tale as though it’s another character in the story shattering around us. What appears to be perfect quickly spins, sometimes literally, into a disaster. If you pay attention to the schedule and priorities of any family with active teenagers in pursuit of the best and brightest future possible, perhaps the way Shults tells this family’s story will hit very close to home.
A father, anxious to give his son all of the advantages he never had, pushes too hard.
A son, afraid to disappoint, pushes himself beyond his physical and emotional reserves.
A sister, holding herself responsible for a catastrophe, pushes her family further and further away.
A true mother, witness to all of the brokenness, pushes to choose her path forward.
They all–we all–only want the best for our families, right? But what if what seems “best” to the outside world destroys us from within?
WAVES is the story of one family whose seemingly perfect world suddenly shatters. But in truth, none of us is ever “perfect”, nor can we be. Disaster might be seen from the outside long before it happens on the inside. At many points, as we sit engulfed by phenomenal acting performances, a heart-rendering story, and an increasingly creative perspective, WAVES asks us to consider not only what is happening in the story we witness but also how its message intersects with our own.
Am I the parent who pushes too hard, so hard that my children fear to tell me their truth?
Am I the child, so broken and in pain that I cannot summon the courage to admit my brokenness?
Am I the sibling, holding myself responsible for all that has gone wrong around me?
Am I the spouse, considering that walking away from it all might be the path to any healing that may be possible?
WAVES is not an easy film to watch. There are dizzying (literally) moments of action and energy. There are an unintended pregnancy and a challenging choice. There is love, gained and lost, and a heartbreaking accident. There is life, captured in all its beauty and pain and loss and hope for redemption. Shults’ invitation to measure ourselves against these people and this journey and this message may be lost on some who find themselves distracted by loud music, teenage drama, and a society that seems to be spinning out of control. But if you engage fully with the film in all of its motion, you cannot help but walk away touched, challenged, and introspectively examining your own story against what you’ve encountered.Catch @LisaHendey review of @A24 @WAVESMovie #WAVES a film about family, faith, and reconciliation Click To Tweet
Ultimately, the message of WAVES that most struck me was the absolute potential for true reconciliation that always exists thanks to God’s boundless mercy. Regardless of the brokenness we may experience in our own lives and the world around us, we can and must cling to hope. Despite the hurts we cast upon one another, we must decide to forgive and to love. Unlike what the world around us tells us, we are made to be people of the light. Yes, we may have to walk a lot of darkness to find that destination. WAVES certainly reminds us of this–that the path in this world is filled with obstacles.
We will find the WAVES in our own lives. How we choose to ride them remains up to us.
Rated R for language throughout, drug and alcohol use, some sexual content and brief violence-all involving teens
WAVES is now playing in select theaters. Everywhere December 6th.