It’s been difficult for me to describe what exactly happens in Waves to friends of mine who know that I love the film but want to know why. Trey Edward Shults’ third film, which is now playing in select theaters and will expand over the coming weeks, finds moving and deeply human drama in the twinned stories of teenaged siblings Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) and Emily Williams (Taylor Russell). But the film’s moments of grace come less from what the story is and more from how Shults chooses to tell it, particularly in the ways that the two narratives play off each other.
There’s so much to dig into with Emily’s story in the film, particularly her budding romance with classmate Luke (Lucas Hedges). But in order to discuss their journeys with any level of detail, the conversation has to go into spoiler territory and divulge a major plot point in Waves. Luckily for us, Trey Edward Shults was willing to go there.
Only read past this point if you’ve seen Waves – and if you haven’t, bookmark this page and return to this interview after seeing the film so you can absorb Shults’ wisdom and insight. Spoilers begin now.
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For his third feature in a row, writer/director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes at Night) dives back into the subject of a family in crisis with Waves. This time around, he sets his drama in South Florida to trace the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family, led by Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), a well-intentioned father who puts a great deal of pressure on his high school athlete son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr., from Luce, last year’s Monsters and Men, and Shults’ It Comes At Night), while tending to ignore his quiet, studious daughter Emily (newcomer Taylor Russell).
When tragedy strikes, the family—who also includes stepmom Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry)—has to find the strength to regroup and forgive flaws even in the darkest times they have every faced. Emily is able to find some kind of solace with the help of a new boyfriend Luke (Lucas Hedges). Waves is a sometimes uncomfortably real and emotionally raw experience, in which all of the characters find very different paths through suffering and recovery, but it’s the journey that Shults paves for his characters that makes the film such a worthy and fulfilling experience.
/Film spoke with Shults, Harrison, and Russell in Chicago recently during the Chicago International Film Festival, where they discussed the very personal events that led to the screenplay, and the ways in which the actors found their way into their very different characters, and the way Shults represented each with unique visual languages. Waves is currently in limited release, opening in top markets on November 22, and continuing to rollout throughout the holiday season.
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Waves is one of the most emotionally devastating movies you’ll see all year. Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, the film follows the trials and tribulations of a family living in South Florida. Like Shults’ two previous films – Krisha and It Comes at Night – Waves is tense, raw, and often anxiety-inducing. But it’s also a movie about redemption. Watch the Waves trailer below.
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Few filmmakers working today know how to induce anxiety in their audience as masterfully as Trey Edward Shults. Even during scenes when things technically aren’t going wrong, Shults’s focus creates a palpable sense of dread. Yes, everything might be fine on screen for now…but it’s only a matter of time before some sort of Sword of Damocles drops and shatters everything, and everyone, to a million pieces.
Shults gave us the cinematic panic attack that was Krisha and the slow-burn post-apocalyptic horror-family-drama It Comes At Night. With Waves, the director has crafted his most ambitious film to date – a dizzying, weighty, heart-wrenching saga of one family disintegrating right before our eyes.
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Soon enough we’ll be heading into awards season, but before that, some prestige films are vying for acclaim at the likes of film festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto. One of them has been getting rave reviews after debuting in the mountains of Telluride and is already being called a breakout, must-see film of 2019.
Waves is the latest film from It Comes At Night director Trey Edward Shults, and it sounds like a heart-wrenching drama following a family (Sterling K. Brown, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison Jr.) that is one the verge of falling apart. With all the buzz on the festival circuit, A24 has released the first Waves trailer to get keep the anticipation growing for this promising indie. Read More »
Trey Edward Shults has already made two memorable films with indie powerhouse A24: the family drama Krisha and the apocalyptic horror film It Comes at Night. Now Shults is re-teaming with A24 to tackle a new genre: the musical. Shutls’ Waves will star Lucas Hedges and Sterling K. Brown, and feature a score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
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