Good intentions don’t always make for good movies, and “Waves” plays like a second-rate music video made by a pretentious film student. There are some deeply meaningful themes that fall by the wayside in this incredibly boring melodrama about the pain and suffering endured by a suburban, middle class African-American family.
There aren’t many reasons to watch this film except for the deeply moving performances. Sterling K. Brown and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are standouts as domineering father Ronald and hardworking son Tyler, a good kid who succumbs to the pressure of a debilitating sports injury. Things spiral out of control for Tyler and eventually end in a devastating loss, which brings the entire family unit crumbling down. Stepmother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) withdraws completely, and daughter Emily (Taylor Russell) is overcome with the guilt that everything is her fault.
The typical, expected themes are touched upon here, but with a slant of exploring the specific ideas of black pain in America. The story feels universal, but so much more could’ve been said in a more succinct manner.
And that’s where the movie falls apart. There’s maybe 45 minutes worth of compelling story, and the rest of the film is weighted down with mumblecore-style filler. When there isn’t a too-long scene of two teens yelling expletives at each other out of a car window or ten minutes of swimming in a Florida spring, there’s the most irritating attempt at artsy visuals with accompanying rap music that sucks the wind right out of the film’s weighty themes.
“Waves” tries but flounders, which is a shame.