I love a good family film, but don’t get it twisted – WAVES (A24) is not your typical happy go lucky family movie.
With anxiety and stress on the rise for developing adults and the added pressure of social media perfection, perhaps Waves is right on time joining a long list of coming of age stories that addresses harsh realities often swept under the rug.
WAVES is uncomfortable and raw – but so is life.
I sat there in the theater ready to give up on the film. My emotions were all over the place and I didn’t want to be in this space that had me questioning myself and my personal and professional roles with young people.
Wrestling between the intent and impact of our words is a never ending emotional battle.
Written and directed by Trey Edwards Shults, WAVES, tells the gritty story of a blended African American family doing seemingly well with entrepreneurship and raising two teenage children – until tragedy happens.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the relationship dynamic between father and son, played by Sterling K. Brown and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. Their relationship dominates so much of the film. I found myself cringing at times as Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) interacted with Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) and Emily (Taylor Russell).
What happens when the desire to protect your children from the world’s view of them, does more harm than good?
The “strength” in Ronald, represented by his physique, personality and interactions did more to shine light on his fears. Parents are under pressure, everyday, for fear of losing their children to police brutality and community violence. Oftentimes this fear is associated more with young black and brown boys, that the young girls that occupy the same homes and walk have to avoid the same pressure.
Fear of pressure and expectations are not exclusive to parents. They’re easily transferred to children. Meeting the rising bar of expectations is hard for anyone and not having the space to communicate those challenges is not healthy. There are so many lessons in WAVES.
Who Ronald was to his children was very different from who he was with his wife, Catherine played by Renée Elise Goldsberry. It was in those moments that we saw him, without the armor and bravado.
There was also a shift in roles for everyone in the except Emily. Her role didn’t change, but something else very powerful took place. She found her voice. Although quiet and somewhat overlooked she remained protective of everyone, while struggling and carrying the weight of everyone’s decisions. Her independence comes alive on screen and helps to affirm the space for grace in difficult situations.
By the end of WAVES we see every member of the family very differently. None of what happens is any one particular persons fault, but their process to getting there is rough. Its personal. And it’s the mirror we typically avoid to look at without turning away.
5 Tips and Lessons Learned After Watching Waves:
- You will see yourself in the story.
- Pressure Doesn’t Always Create Diamonds.
- We Need to Get Serious About Intimate Partner Violence.
- The Soundtrack Is Right and so was Grandma – Just Keep On Living!
- Trials and baptism comes by fire and water.
I strongly suggest parents and children see this movie together and alone.
In theaters now