From the very beginning of the first reel, Director/editor Trey Edward Shults, cinematographer Drew Daniels and additional editor Isaac Hagy create a maelstrom of images, sounds and energy. It’s almost overwhelming and very much sets you on edge. The never stationary camera challenges your sense of vertigo, while the selected songs drill your ears.
As the story evolves, you witness the impending disintegration of teenager Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). You can see the end result in the distance but can do nothing to change the ultimate outcome. This situation tears his family apart and each member ends up dealing with the sorrow and loss in their own way.
With the audience nerves still raw, the film enters its second half. The tone becomes less frantic and more introspective. This mood is helped in large measure by the film score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It also shifts in most part to highlight the surviving sister, Emily (Taylor Russell) and her reemergence into the light of normality.
The acting is solid throughout and the actors pay to their strengths, including a funny rendering by Lucas Hedges as the incredibly awkward but endearing teen, Luke. With a first half that will push you to the brink with crackling kinetic energy and production overload and a second act that soothes with redemption and hope, Waves is a moving tale told in two parts.