Trey Edward Shults‘ third feature film “Waves” world premiered at Telluride Film Festival Friday to rave reactions, citing the filmmaker is on another level with his latest.
“Waves” stars Kelvin Harrison Jr, Sterling K Brown, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell and Renee Elsie Goldsberry. The story follows the lives of two young couples, which frames Shults’ film more like a teen drama, but critically much more expansive than that. In that backdrop lies the aftermath of trauma for one Floridian family.
Shults made his debut feature with 2015’s “Krisha,” a film that began first as a short film of the same name before he decided to expand it. In 2016, the film won the John Cassevetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. At SXSW Film Festival it took home the prizes for Special Jury Award, Audience Award and the SXSW Grand Jury Award for narrative feature.
Then came his sophomore effort with 2017’s psychological horror mystery “It Comes At Night,” starring Kelvin Harrison Jr, Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott and Carmen Ejogo. Shults lays the work into his third film with the close reliance on family dynamics and precocious emotional impact. A24 will attempt to lead the film into some awards buzz, claiming a comfortable early-November theatrical release for a potential push.
For The Hollywood Reporter, Sheri Lendon describes Harrison Jr’s performance as “no less extraordinary” than his role in “It Comes at Night.” She writes the first half of the film is more “overdetermined,” but Shults then reinvigorates the dramatic structure in the second section.
Waves’ power is inseparable from its intricate aesthetic layers. But what resounds most potently are the simplest, most direct exchanges: lovers’ voices rising in spiraling anger, a parent and child confessing their innermost fears, and the way the searching conversation of two shy teenagers, facing each other across a diner booth, can tear your heart out.
Peter Debruge of Variety writes that “movies of this caliber come along seldom to never.” In his very appraising review he says:
“Waves” bends and surprises, radiates and engulfs, in a dizzying and ecstatic attempt to capture the love and pain and pressure visited upon a contemporary American family — an African American family, to be precise. For Shults, who is white, doing justice to that experience means projecting beyond himself to capture all that is universal and unique about his four central characters, each of whom feels fully dimensional by the end of this intimate epic.
Carl Broughton of Film Era may not have attended the “Waves” premiere, but he advocates for the critical focus on Shults’ film, noting Kelvin Harrison Jr is behind remarkable performances this year:
I know people like to sleep on young, poc actors in favor of young white actors born into wealth and fame but please don’t sleep on Kelvin Harrison Jr this year. His award winning performance in Luce is just the beginning. #waves #a24
— Carl Broughton (@Carlislegendary) August 31, 2019
Attendees couldn’t help but sing praises for Shults’ third feature via Twitter:
Also Taylor Russell is a real discovery. Her scenes with Lucas Hedges are some of my favorite. Honestly, this is a flawless ensemble.
— Jenelle Riley (@jenelleriley) August 31, 2019
WAVES: This is Trey Edward Shults, who made KRISHA and IT COMES AT NIGHT, which are both really good. This is also good, but I am unable to formulate a quick analysis and thus am not tweeting. #TellurideFilmFestival
— Eric D. Snider will personally take your guns away (@EricDSnider) August 31, 2019
WAVES just grabbed my heart. It’s tragic and brutal but ultimately hopeful. Sterling K. Brown and Lucas Hedges are terrific but it’s all about the newcomers, particularly Taylor Russell who is a real discovery. Echoes of Moonlight for sure. See it if you’re at #Telluride. pic.twitter.com/Vq1PNQWCgM
— Dave Karger (@davekarger) August 31, 2019
“Waves” is set to screen at Toronto International Film Festival September 10. A24 will be distributing the film in US theaters November 1.