Movie review: “Waves”


Tyler Williams and his girlfriend, Alexis Lopez. The quote below came from the Williams father. Graphic by: Soraya Stegall

Soraya Stegall and Julian Martinez

 A journey of forgiveness and coming together in the wake of loss

The 2019 film “Waves,” starring Taylor Russell and Alexa Demie, is the work of the independent film company A24. The company has released other iconic films such as “Moonlight,” “The Florida Project” and “Midsommar.”
Directed by Trey Edward Shults, “Waves” tells the story of a suburban African-American family dealing with loss as they navigate through pain, love, hatred, and forgiveness, with a  soundtrack by iconic artists such as Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi and Animal Collective.

“Waves” is a two hour film split into two parts. The first part tells the story of Tyler Williams, a senior in high school devoted to athletics, specifically football and wrestling. When Williams learns that he is suffering from a level five SLAP tear- the tearing of cartilage in the inner part of your shoulder joint-, he continues to participate in sports against the recommendation of his doctor until his shoulder is further injured during a wrestling match. With an end to Williams’ athletic career which he heavily devoted so much time and energy to, he begins a downward spiral of pent up anger, frustration and drug abuse. Factors such as his short-lived athletic path, fights with his girlfriend and controlling father Ronald Williams push him over the edge. Over the course of the next few weeks Tyler Williams’ anger leads him to physical retaliation, and on one fateful night a tragic accident due to his negligence causes him to destroy the rest of his life and any chance at a future.  

Sloane Feingold ‘23 said, “That was so devastating and totally out of nowhere. I feel so bad for his family. I feel like he had no right to do that even though he was having some problems with himself. It was messed up.”

Tyler Williams emotional outburst and the consequences following it signify some of man’s worst evils: arrogance and inflexibility. Due to his stubborn mindedness, enabled primarily by his father, Williams ignored his increasing anger issues despite those around him voicing their concerns. He pushed and pushed himself until he finally broke in an irreparable way. This devastating story of wasted potential tells a tragic tale of how heavily our environment can affect our mental health, even pushing us to do the unthinkable. When we are in an environment where we feel trapped and unable to express our emotions in healthy ways it can lead us to act out in anger, not always because we want to do harm to ourselves or others, but because we feel there is no other way to cope.

The film was named “Waves” to signify the initial panic, then calm after calamity. Photo by: Soraya Stegall

Avi Lopez ‘24 said, “I feel like there was definitely a lot of hidden rage and certain things happened because of the way they communicated and not getting therapy for past issues with their mom, who isn’t in the picture at all.”

The second part of the film follows the story of Tyler Williams sister, Emily Williams, and the recovery from the family’s tragedy. Quiet and reserved, we do not hear or see much of her in the beginning of the story. After being asked out by a classmate, Luke, their budding romance takes on a life of its own for the remainder of the film. Similar to Emily, Luke is struggling with figuring out his own feelings towards a family member who hurt him. His father suffers from cancer, but was also an alcoholic who abused Luke and his mother. Together, the both of them fit into each other’s lives, filling the hole of grief in their young hearts. With the support of one another they learn how to forgive those who hurt them.

Lopez said, “I relate to the relationship with the daughter [Emily Williams] and her boyfriend because they built a strong bond through just talking and being able to trust each other and I think that’s one of the best things in the world, to be able to just talk and not be judged.”

Not only is “Waves” a story about testing a family’s perseverance and strength in troubling times, but it is also about navigating through it all while in high school and dealing with the common issues of being a teenager. Tyler Williams was a passionate athlete who suffered a tragic physical injury that brought his dream to an end. Emily Williams was shy and reserved until she met a boy who helped her out of her comfort zone and introduced her to new experiences. While these stories were tragic and unfortunate, they also shed light on the beautiful parts of life and all we can learn and be exposed to when we step out of our comfort zones, open up to those we love, and let go of grudges.