Waves Parent Guide
Beyond its significant negative content issues, this movie is burdened by its own heaving mass of self-absorption and conceit.
Parent Movie Review
Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) is a high school senior, a star on the school wrestling team, and happily involved with his girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie). The only cloud in the sky is his overbearing father (Sterling K. Brown). That is, until Tyler suffers a serious shoulder injury which threatens to destroy his wrestling career. Using the Oxycodone prescribed for his father to manage the pain, Tyler tries to keep his injury secret, but things have already started to unravel.
This is the most agonizingly long and uninteresting movie I’ve endured in ages. Catastrophically dull for long stretches, stretched even further by indulgent shooting and inadequate editing, Waves is the first movie I’ve seen for this job that made me commit a cardinal sin: I pulled out my phone partway through the show to see how long I’d been stuck there. I tried to be discreet, but frankly, I think the people a few rows behind me were just as curious as I was.
Waves contains ripples of good storytelling, and the fundamental plot isn’t bad, but it’s swamped by dreadful directing. With two exceptions, the characters are underdeveloped and less compelling than they might otherwise be. Those two exceptions get most of the screen time, but so much of it is spent on lingering shots of next to nothing that the time feels wasted.
An “R” rating covers a lot of territory ranging from movies with three sexual expletives right on through to those with explicit sexual content. Waves manages to earn its Restricted rating on multiple fronts. In addition to prolonged profanity, the movie features extensive depictions of teenage sexuality and drug use, making it completely unsuitable for family viewing. This behavior is frequently depicted in a negative context, but sometimes the film seems strangely ambivalent about the whole business.
Beyond its content issues, the story is burdened by its own heaving mass of self-absorption, drowning in the conceit that it’s telling the most important story to grace the world of cinema. It’s hard for a talented cast to crawl out from under that kind of nonsense. Interestingly, Kelvin Harrison recently starred in a startlingly similar film: Luce: similar characters, similar challenges, and almost identical content problems. Unfortunately, this film lacks Luce’s theatrical feel. Waves feels like someone’s Instagram account got mashed up with a music video. Writing for The Globe and Mail, Sarah-Tai Black points out that this movie is essentially a “mixtape” made by a white director who’s trying to package black experiences. Sadly, in Black’s words, he “lack[s] the vision needed to sell it as the challenging formal experience” it needs to be. I’m inclined to agree with Black. Watching Waves is like watching the sea steadily retreat from the shore, with no hope that the tide is going to turn.Directed by Trey Edward Shults. Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, and Taylor Russell. Running time: 135 minutes. Theatrical release November 15, 2019. Updated February 6, 2020
Watch the trailer for Waves
Rating & Content Info
Why is Waves rated R? Waves is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, drug and alcohol use, some sexual content and brief violence-all involving teens
Violence: Several individuals are punched. People yell in multiple scenes. A character is injured while wrestling. An individual is shown aggravating a serious injury during a wrestling match. A man punches a woman who has slapped him. A character shoves his father. An individual suffers a fatal skull fracture. A car accident occurs. A man gets angry and throws things around his room. Abortion is a topic of discussion and pro-life posters are seen.
Sexual Content: There are depictions of teen pregnancy. Teenagers are shown having sex without graphic nudity on more than one occasion. Teenagers are shown bathing and showering together, again without graphic nudity. A man watches porn online; masturbation is implied. There is frequent discussion of sex and sexual topics. A young woman’s nipples are visible through her clothes. Male buttock nudity is seen in a locker room. Abortion is discussed.
Profanity: There are 98 uses of a sexual expletive, 15 uses of scatological terms, and a dozen uses of mild profanities. There are also several uses of racial slurs and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teenagers are shown abusing prescription medication, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and taking MDMA (ecstasy). They are also depicted driving under the influence of some or all of these substances.
Page last updated February 6, 2020
Waves Parents' Guide
According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the closer an object comes to the speed of light, the slower time will proceed on that object as compared to a stationary observer. With that in mind, how slowly was my theater moving (compared to the rest of the universe) for the duration of this movie so that roughly 8000 years passed for me, while only two-and-a-half hours passed for those outside the theater?