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Film / Waves

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"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

Waves is a 2019 drama film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes at Night), released by A24 on November 15, 2019 after premiering at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30 of that year. The film stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Alexa Demie.

Tthe film tells the emotional journey of the Williams family — a suburban family in South Florida comprised of well-intentioned but domineering patriarch Ronald (Brown), his children Tyler (Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Russell), and their stepmother Catherine (Goldsberry) — as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of extreme loss and tragedy.

One of the film's most notable selling points is its eclectic soundtrack, containing some of the most popular names of the time's hip-hop, R&B, alternative and pop scenes, such as Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Animal Collective, Tame Impala, Kid Cudi, Kanye West and SZA — and requiring immense work to secure rights to the music. The film additionally received an original score composed by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.

Waves contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: After getting in an argument with her at the party that turns physical, Tyler angrily hits Alexis, making her fall and hit her head on the hard floor below. To his horror, she bleeds out from her injury, and he's convicted of second degree murder for it.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Most of the film is shot in the 1.85:1 ratio, while some scenes use the 1.33:1 and 2.35:1 ratio.
  • As the Good Book Says...: 1 Corinthians 13 is preached upon by a pastor as the family attends church.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tyler is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Alexis (he might be paroled after thirty years, but it's a very long time), and Luke's father succumbs to cancer, but Emily and Ronald eventually reconcile.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with a shot of Emily cycling.
  • Cradling Your Kill: After he kills her accidentally, Tyler holds Alexis, begging her to wake up.
  • Disappeared Dad: Luke's dad was a drug user who abused him, so they're estranged. He later meets him one last time after it turns out that his dad is dying of cancer. When they meet his dad is very remorseful about how he was and Luke forgives him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • After Alexis breaks up with Tyler, he makes a mess of his room, throws his father to the floor, stalks Alexis at a house party, and eventually knocks her dead.
    • Tyler is sentenced to life, having a possibility of parole after thirty years, for what was probably involuntary manslaughter from what's seen (which might get you five to ten years at most usually), even despite having a plea deal. It's probable the prosecution felt they could prove premeditation given the angry texts he sent to Alexis before, and so this was likely bargained down from life without parole for first degree murder.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Tyler takes Alexis to have an abortion when he gets her pregnant. After they leave the clinic, she tells him she decided against it, which enrages Tyler. He tries persuading her otherwise, saying that high school seniors shouldn't be worrying about raising a child, which frustrates her greatly as she believes he's refusing to see her perspective on the situation. The fallout from this ultimately leads to her accidental death.
  • Jump Scare: After Tyler knocks Alexis to the floor, the moment is completely quiet, and we only hear Tyler's stifled sobs as he cradles her body. Both him and the audience then get jolted by the loud, horrified scream of an unfortunate girl also at the party who happened to walk into the room.
  • Missing Mom: Tyler and Emily's birth mother died in her childhood from a drug overdose.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Emily, a pretty young woman, spends a lot of time in her bikini during the second half of the film.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Tyler knocks Alexis to the floor in a fit of rage, he is horrified when he realizes she's unconscious and bleeding out.
  • Parental Substitute: Catherine is Emily and Tyler's stepmother technically, but is the only mom Emily's really ever known, serving as a good one to both of them. [When Tyler angrily yells that Catherine's not his real mom, she's very hurt and Ronald is outraged.
  • Please Wake Up: While cradling Alexis' body, Tyler can be heard begging her to wake up.
  • Shower Scene: Luke holds Emily in the shower while they're in a motel together.
  • Speed Sex: Luke ends up climaxing quickly the first time he has sex with Emily; however, she laughs it off and insists it's alright.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Appears in the plot as Tyler's girlfriend Alexis turns out to be pregnant, alluded to by her missing her period. He takes her to get an abortion, but she ends up choosing to keep the baby, which soon has horrific ramifications for her.
  • Their First Time: Emily and Luke have theirs together. He comes fast, but Emily says it's fine — they can do it again.
  • Underwater Kiss: Emily has her first kiss with her boyfriend Luke while both dive under a pond.