“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is a proverb dating back to the 11th century’s French Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote, “Hell is full of good intentions and wishes.”
That’s perhaps the best way to describe Trey Edward Shults’ 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, flexing in front of a mirror, but insists that the family, including his wife Catherine (Renee 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 to help with the pain. And when Tyler discovers his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) is pregnant, he keeps that secret too.
Shults’ script structure suddenly changes when tragedy occurs. There’s a tonal shift to quiet, teenage Emily’s perspective, as she slowly builds an emotional relationship with a new boyfriend, Luke (Lucas Hedges).
Writer/director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes St Night) very slowly builds to the pivotal crisis, weaving a complex web of pain, guilt, love and forgiveness. And some of it was very personal:
“My dad (artist Kelvin Harrison Sr.) is an insanely good musician, so he really wanted me to be the best jazz pianist and trumpet player that I could be. But the practice and performing (proved so rigorous) – that I finally told him, ‘This is not fun anymore. It’s not a hobby; it’s not setting me up for anything. It makes me resent you…and it’s making me resent this craft.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Waves” is an overwrought, anguished 6, a domestic melodrama, reflecting parent-child pressures.