Film Review: Waves

Trey Edward Shults’ Waves is tender, powerful, and finely executed. 

High school wrestler Tyler struggles with balancing practice, family life, and his relationship with his girlfriend. His sister Emily, meanwhile, struggles in the aftermath of a life-changing event…

Focusing on Tyler and his family as he faces pressure from all corners, Waves is a meditative drama. Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, the film tackles powerful themes within the confines of a teen-focused drama.

The narrative has a definite break, when the focus is pulled from one protagonist and on to another. The first segment feels like a complete film when it reaches its climax. As the second segment begins it is difficult to see where Shults will take his story. As the second part continues, it is absorbing. There is humour to be found in both parts, but the emphasis remains on drama. There are several emotional moments, and each of these is earned by the solid script, good character development, and the filmmaker’s considered direction. 

Camera work in Waves is frenetic to begin with; it does not stop moving for the opening scenes. The pace and range of movement slows in tandem with Tyler’s momentum. It acts almost as a mirror to Tyler’s drive; as aspects of his life spin out of control, the camera slows to meet his level. Later in the film, the camera is more laconic, matching the personality of Emily.

Colour is used to good effect in the film, underscoring the mood and energy at times. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is a brilliant accompaniment to the on screen action. Performances in Waves are great all round. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is completely believable as Tyler. As his life spirals out of control, his frenzy is conveyed in a disconcerting fashion. Taylor Russell is also great; she has great chemistry with Lucas Hedges. Sterling K. Brown is a strong asset as their father.

Shults’ third film illustrates the filmmaker’s considerable skill and adeptness at storytelling. Waves is memorable viewing.

Waves is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019. 

Film Review: Hotel Artemis

Drew Pearce’s crime thriller Hotel Artemis is an entertaining ride.  The film benefits from a good script and a solid cast.

In Los Angeles of the near future, the Nurse runs Hotel Artemis, a member-only emergency treatment centre for criminals. On a night when riots are taking place, she receives several visitors…

The idea behind Hotel Artemis is quite interesting, offering a hospital for criminal members under the guise of a dusty hotel. Immediately parallels will be drawn with John Wick. Pearce’s film distinguishes itself from this by placing emphasis on a number of different narrative strands. Inevitably these come together as the film progresses. 

The main strand follows the Nurse, who has been running the hotel for decades. Her story intersects with that of Nice and Waikiki. The Nurse is given sufficient background as the film progresses. Other characters do not receive the same attention. Nevertheless, this is not too much of a hinderance, with the action concentrating on the events of a single evening. Writer-director Pearce offers a good script. Dialogue is often funny, with some zinging lines.

Apart from the opening gambit at the bank, action is restrained until the final third of the film. At this point, Pearce unleashes the violence that has been building throughout. Action here is stylish, with Nice taking centre stage. Performances in the film are good. Jodie Foster is given the most to do, and she handles this typically well. Sofia Boutella is lively, while Sterling K. Brown is decent, when he is given screen time.

There is always the potential that balancing so many characters will be uneven, and Hotel Artemis suffers from this slightly. There are moments of emotion but these remain on the surface, as action quickly moves to the next scene. Notwithstanding, Drew Pearce has created an enjoyable picture with Hotel Artemis.

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