The third feature-length film from writer-director Trey Edward Shults, Waves furthers Shults's obsession with the forces that keep families together and those that tear them apart. It follows a suburban black American family in Florida, at the center of which is Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a successful student athlete who's balancing schoolwork, partying, training, and hanging with his girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie). He's under immense pressure—especially from his father, Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), whose dogged protectiveness of his family goes too far for their own well-being. The first half of Waves follows Tyler and the consequences of pushing past his physical limits; a shoulder injury threatens to sideline his wrestling dreams and deteriorate his relationship with Alexis. The second half shifts the focus to his sister, Emily (played by Taylor Russell with dazzling effect), who is left to deal with the fallout of her brother's explosive behavior, both in her family and in the greater community. The film's use of careening cinematography—its spinning, dizzying opening sequence; the greenness of the greens; the low, urgent movement of the camera—seems to almost-just tip the story over into disarray before righting itself and soldiering on.

by Jasmyne Keimig
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Trey Edward Shults
Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell