Trey Edward Shultz’s film, Waves, is the type thing that, on the surface, seems to have all the boxes checked. Its subject matter, the emotional ups and downs of an African American Florida family, couldn’t be more prescient. It’s also so technically resplendent that it’s only when the experience is over that you realize that there isn’t as much to chew on as Shultz might think he has sitting on his plate. He seems so enamored with the filmmaking process and dazzling the audience with his command of the medium that the film’s emotional content seems muted by comparison. If only he had tamped down the cinematic pyrotechnics, and amped up the dramatic stakes, perhaps Waves would have more resonance. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Sterling Brown in Waves

The first hour of the film focuses on love struck teen wrestler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his relationship with his domineering father (Sterling Brown). An unexpected development occurs at about the one hour mark that makes the whole first hour seem like merely a setup for the weaker second half,  which clearly owes more than a passing debt to the much superior Ordinary People. The irony is that the second half actually pales in comparison to the much stronger first hour. Overlong and plodding at times, Waves has its moments but not enough to justify the hype and its laborious way of making its dramatic points. I wasn’t impressed.

Waves is playing at local theaters.
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