‘Waves’ reviews: Do critics think it’s ‘one of the best films of 2019’?

“Waves” premiered in August at the Telluride Film Festival, but it finally opened in theaters on November 15, so is the family drama an awards contender? The reviews are in for the family drama, and they point to yes.

As of this writing the film has a MetaCritic score of 81 based on 22 reviews counted so far: 19 positive, 3 mixed, and none outright negative. And those positive reviews include five rated a perfect 100, which indicates there’s a lot of passion for it. Meanwhile, the film’s Rotten Tomatoes rating is 90% fresh based on 79 reviews, only 8 of which are classified as rotten. The RT critics’ consensus summarizes the reviews by saying, “An up-close look at one family’s emotional ups and downs, ‘Waves’ captures complicated dynamics with tenderness and grace.”

RT categorizes reviews simply on a pass/fail basis as opposed to MC’s sliding scale from 0-100, but in this case both point to a critical consensus that’s not unanimous, but is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. That’s good news for the film since it might have suffered in comparison to “Moonlight” (2016), which had adoring reviews and ultimately won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Comparisons between the two films are inevitable since both tell stories about troubled black families in Florida, and both films are produced and distributed by A24. But they have differing structures and focus on their characters in different ways. This tells the story of a suburban clan from the points of view of two teenage siblings (Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell), and the events that strain this family are markedly different.

It’s being described as “one of the best films of 2019.” It’s “tender, bruising, exuberant” and “explodes onto the screen with authentic vibrations of ordinary life.” Director Trey Edward Shults creates an “overwhelming sensory experience” and “intricate aesthetic layers,” though it has also been said that he’s a “stronger image-maker than writer,” and the film’s “tonal shift” midway through is too “severe.”

As an awards contender, the film has already made waves, pardon the pun, at the Gotham Awards, where it’s nominated for Best Feature and Best Breakthrough Performance for Russell. Do you think it will continue to make an impact in the weeks and months to come? Check out some of the reviews below, and discuss this and more with your fellow movie fans in our forums.

Sasha Stone (The Wrap): “‘Waves,’ the third film from Trey Edward Shults, is more evidence of the 30-year-old director’s versatility, as it explodes onto the screen with authentic vibrations of ordinary life … Shults, whose previous films were 2015’s ‘Krisha’ and 2017’s ‘It Comes at Night,’ wrote, directed and co-edited ‘Waves’ with urgency and a pulsating life force … ‘Waves’ is sure to be regarded as one of the best films of 2019.”

Sheri Linden (Hollywood Reporter): “It wouldn’t be wrong to call ‘Waves’ a ‘teen drama,’ but that generic label doesn’t begin to convey the emotional scope of this tender, bruising, exuberant film … ‘Waves” power is inseparable from its intricate aesthetic layers. But what resounds most potently are the simplest, most direct exchanges: lovers’ voices rising in spiraling anger, a parent and child confessing their innermost fears. “

Manohla Dargis (New York Times): “Shults has created a deep, at times overwhelming sensory experience. With sinuous cinematography and an intricate sound design — floods of saturated color, bursts of ear-pounding music — he expresses intensities of feeling (love, pain, fury, agony) that create a visceral emotional impact … Shults is a stronger image-maker than writer and, like many American filmmakers, he has a tendency to overexplain, including in some parent-child talks.”

Benjamin Lee (The Guardian): “‘Waves’ begins with such confidence and bombast that I found myself gripped to the seat, transfixed both by Shults’s bravura film-making and also by Harrison’s barnstorming performance … but the tonal shift is so severe and the first half of the film so deeply affecting that the film never really recovers.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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