Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Movie with Abe: Waves

Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Released November 15, 2019

Family dynamics have changed as a result of new technology and social conventions. When teenagers are left alone in their rooms, they can browse whatever they want on their computers and use their phones to stay completely connected to their classmates and people they’ve never even met. This can certainly lead to overstimulation, and, more problematically, an inability to disconnect from what is going on, which can also create dangerous obsessions and stir up feelings of jealousy. There’s no way to replace an in-person conversation, which happens all too rarely these days, where emotions can actually be assessed properly.

Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Taylor Russell) are siblings growing up in South Florida. Tyler is a wrestling star pushed to his limits by his overzealous father (Sterling K. Brown), prompting him to continue training even after he learns of a worsening injury. Tyler’s other focus is on his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie), whose potential pregnancy creates problems in their relationship. Emily is much shier, nervously navigating a romance with the one boy who notices her, Luke (Lucas Hedges). Their dynamics and the way that they interact with the stepmother (Renée Elise Goldsberry) who raised them inform the different ways in which they absorb the media and their surroundings.

This film, which runs two hours and sixteen minutes, might better be described as two films, one about each of these children. There’s a lot to unpack from each of their experiences, which are shaped by the color of their skin and the affluence of the community in which they live, but are easily representative of today’s typical American teenager in many ways. Loud, thumping music pumps through the soundtrack throughout much of the film, blasting all the noise and chaos that can define those young people who are glued to social media and insist on posting every moment in which they’re actually with others on those same platforms. It’s unsettling, compelling, and totally realistic, likely far too relevant for most viewers who couldn’t otherwise go through the events depicted in this film.

Harrison has been making exemplary choices in just a short career of film acting, with “Luce,” “Gully,” “All Rise,” and “Monsters and Men” all tackling complex societal issues in just the last two years. Here, he delivers a powerful performance, though it’s Russell, who impressed on Netflix’s reboot of “Lost in Space,” who truly delivers a breakthrough turn. Brown and Goldsberry are dependable as always, portraying adults who are far from flawless. This film is an intense emotional journey, one that runs a bit long but remains potent and thought-provoking throughout its eye-poppingly colorful and stimulating run.


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