What You Need To Know:
This story takes a turn and shifts from focusing on the teenage son to his younger sister. WAVES is well written, with fine acting and great cinematography, but it takes a while to wrap up. Also, it has abundant, gratuitous foul language, some violence, teenage sexuality, and substance abuse. There are some Christian elements involving Scripture and being raised in church, but they really don’t have an effect on the characters. The movie’s worldview is Romantic, with the characters following their hearts more than anything else. The objectionable content in WAVES renders it unacceptable for media-wise viewers.
WAVES follows the journey of a suburban black family in Florida navigating their way through the complications and the challenges that life brings, especially when people make bad decisions.
Tyler is an average high schooler. He’s focused on wrestling and his girlfriend, Alexis. His father had an athletic knee injury that still causes him pain, but he wants Tyler to push himself as hard as he can and be the best he can be. Even after a wrestling match that went well, Tyler’s father still trains with him at home to make sure that, next time, he’ll win better and faster. Black people have to work harder to succeed, Tyler’s father tells him.
However, Tyler’s shoulder has been seriously bothering him. Instead of telling his parents about it, he just sneaks pain pills from his dad’s prescription. He even lies to his stepmother about his condition, after she forces him to get it checked out at the doctor. This works for a while, until a snap during a wrestling match puts him out officially for the season. Because of this, Tyler becomes seriously depressed, being unable to work out and hurting from his father’s extreme disappointment. As a result, Tyler hasn’t been able to spend as much time with Alexis as he’d like to spend. To make matters worse, when he finally does catch up with her, he learns she’s late on her period and getting concerned. A few days later, Alexis confirms her pregnancy, and Tyler’s life just got a lot more complicated.
Tragically, Tyler and Alexis decide to go to an abortion clinic. They try to ignore the screaming protestors outside of the office. Tyler sits and waits for Alexis, and she leaves the clinic really upset. While in the car going home, she tells Tyler she couldn’t go through with the abortion. She’s clearly extremely upset, but all Tyler can think about is what kind of impact this is going to have on his life. They argue and fight over it, and she gets out of the car and walks home. Later, she won’t answer his calls, but texts him that her parents support her decision, that she’s breaking up with him and blocking his number.
Alexis and Tyler were supposed to go to their school dance together, but Tyler sees she’s going with someone else. He has turned to substances to block out his pain, not only drinking alcohol but also crushing up and snorting oxycodone. Tyler just wants to talk to Alexis. He steals his father’s car keys, but is immediately caught by his stepmother, who recognizes his intoxication. He is at a breaking point, yelling at her and shoving his dad to the ground before taking off in his truck. He’s in no position to be driving and his anger is being fueled by the things he’s put into his body. When he gets to the party where Alexis is, Tyler’s younger sister, Emily, is there too, and she sees him follow his ex-girlfriend into the garage. Little does anyone know how, in the next few minutes, all their lives will drastically change.
Well produced, WAVES is heavily performance driven, with characters that are beautifully written to be at the true level of complexity that human beings are. Every actor in WAVES more than carries their own weight, which creates a powerful ensemble in the movie. The cinematography serves the story well, and some of the shots are very creative and inventive. Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults is quickly establishing himself as an acclaimed filmmaker. The only drawback with this particular story is that it takes a bit too long to finish up, thus creating a feeling that the ending should have come about 15 minutes earlier. Also, WAVES has a heavy amount of gratuitous foul language, including nearly 100 uses of the “f” word, plus some racial slurs. The overall worldview is mainly Romantic because the characters seem to follow their hearts and selfish desires, not looking to God or any type of moral guidance for help. Although the family in the movie attends church and seems to have an element of Christian faith in their lives, their Christianity doesn’t appear to affect their decisions or actions. Because of these things, as well as some violence, sexual immorality, and teenage alcohol and drug use, MOVIEGUIDE® finds WAVES to be excessive and ultimately unacceptable. WAVES could have been a great movie without all the unnecessary foul language, and if the filmmakers had looked into the true peace, love and deliverance that trusting in Jesus Christ can bring to us even in the most dire situations and incorporated that truth into their story.