Movie review by Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Waves Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 16+

Intense drama reflects teen culture; substance use, cursing.

R 2019 135 minutes

Parents say

age 16+

Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 16+

Based on 2 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 15+


Depressing drama with no focus. Underdeveloped characters. Even Sterling Brown, who I think is a great actor, couldn’t save it.
age 17+

Waves Review

Waves stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Lucas Hedges, and Renée Elise Goldsberry in this drama about a family that undergoes a heavy tragedy and it showcases each character as they are struggling to find their way. This was my most anticipated film of November, so I was ridiculously excited to go see it. It wasn’t playing anywhere near me so I drove out of my way a bit to be able to watch it. Can I just begin by saying that this is likely the most beautifully shot film of the year. Trey Edward Shults masterfully directs this film and Drew Daniels handling cinematography was truly phenomenal. I haven’t seen too much other work from these two individuals but just based on the look of this film, I have to see more. I will look forward to what they come out with next. Each shot in this film was absolutely stunning. I absolutely loved it and the formatting of the film was so unique as well, which I will discuss more about later in the review! The performances in this movie are extremely powerful. Sterling K. Brown is excellent and Kelvin Harrison Jr. gives a brutally honest performance that felt so raw and real. It will probably get overlooked by the academy, unfortunately, but it certainly won’t be forgotten by audiences that came to see the film. The film basically has two distinct halves with kind of an epilogue that help to translate messages of being human and making mistakes and having forgiveness and compassion. The formatting of the film helped to really emphasize these kinds of moments. At a certain point in the film when something big happens, the aspect ratio switches. This happens again later in the film and I thought that was so amazing because it was another form of carrying the story along, not just through the writing— but through the filming as well. The creators of this movie put so much thought into the final product and I’m grateful for that. The story was absolutely captivating and at one point, even brought me to tears. It makes sure that you understand each of the characters and what they are struggling with internally and when some of them make bad decisions, it doesn’t make you think of them as bad but it just is more endearing because you feel for them and you realize they are not in the right headspace for various reasons. This movie goes deep to send its messages and it forces you to continue thinking about it and talking about it hours after the film has already ended. The film ultimately feels like a story about a teenage boy who has a lot of things going on in his life that lead to a critical moment and there is a second story about the aftermath of that moment. There are other films that have done this such as The Place Beyond the Pines. I absolutely love films that do that because it makes the story feel that much more heavy and powerful. I only had a few issues with this film which are basically just long ways of me saying I wanted more. The movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes but it could have been another 35 minutes long and I would have been highly invested. You see our central characters making these mistakes that are life-determining and you almost grieve with them through the things they are battling emotionally. It also shines a light on the fact that we are only human and we make a lot of mistakes and do things that aren’t the best for us, sometimes. I loved the religious messages in the film as well. There are many moments where I feel like it is saying when things are so bad and nobody else is with you, God still is. The film isn’t necessarily religiously driven, but there are religious characters, such as the dad played by Sterling K. Brown, and you see his own mistakes but how he still relies on God. The same goes for Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s character. My only issue is that I desired to see a little more of the closure because the movie left me speechless and with questions concerning the fate of these characters that you have come to really care about for the past two hours, but I believe this is what the writers/director would have wanted, and that being the case— they did a job well done. Ultimately, this is a film about having forgiveness and compassion, realizing that we are only human, and just that life can be going good until it hits you in waves. This movie was very deep and it was very honest. Therefore, I am going to give Waves 5/5 STARS

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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