Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a popular high-school wrestling star with a beautiful girlfriend. But his domineering father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) is his constant critic.
Then everything goes wrong. An injury ends Tyler’s wrestling career. His girlfriend is pregnant and keeping the baby. His stress compounds because he dare not tell his father how he’s struggling.
Tyler’s stunningly bad choices nearly destroy his family. Mother Catherine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) seethes at her husband because she believes he pushed her son too hard. Ronald protests that he was pushing his son to succeed.
Sister Emily (Taylor Russell in her feature film debut) suffers most. As her parents bicker, she is furious, depressed and highly emotional. A sympathetic schoolmate helps her claw her way toward forgiving herself and her brother.
This story of grief and forgiveness bogs down in its ambitions. Director Trey Edward Shults (It Comes at Night) touches too lightly on his topics to satisfy his aspirations. It’s as if the movie had been dropped on the floor, shattered and carelessly reassembled. The result is a beautifully shot story but starkly divided narrative.
Emily’s story is by far the more interesting. Russell is stunning as a girl grasping for a lost normal life. Her slow journey to acceptance of the injustices of life is heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful. Shults uses little interactions between family members to explore complicated dynamics as Emily and her father help each other heal.
Tyler’s story is melodramatic. His character is poorly developed — even though it’s he who creates the problems explored in the second half of the movie.
Still, Waves gives us enough beautiful cinematography to distract from Tyler’s histrionics. Shults’ camera work mirrors each sibling. Tyler’s is all whirling pans and frantic movements, while Emily is a more deliberate girl, and the camera follows her shyly from a distance, moving slowly closer.
Waves is an ambitious swing for the fences that will give you and the people you love plenty to talk about.
Prospects: Good • R • 135 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Hawthorne College is losing its sorority girls. When the missing girls turn up murdered, the women on campus band together to hunt down the culprit.
A reboot of the horror classic that inspired seminal films like Halloween, this take on Black Christmas is modernized for a new audience. The original featured women as victims begging for mercy; now the girls fight back. A slasher film is a great way to de-stress during the holidays, especially with a little girl power mixed in.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 92 mins.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Surviving the video game world of Jumanji once was enough. Now four friends have to re-enter the life-threatening fantasy adventures to save a missing friend. This time, help comes in the form of Spencer’s grandfather (Danny DeVito).
The charm of the franchise is in watching stars — The Rock, Kevin Hart and Jack Black — campily imitate other actors and teenage girls. The Rock takes on Danny DeVito.
If you’re hoping for an interesting story, you likely won’t find it here. This sequel to a surprise hit was rushed into production and theaters, so the script and performances are rushed, too. There’s always a chance this flick is secretly brilliant, but not a big one.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 123 mins.
Security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) finds a pipe bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, averting mass murder at Olympic Park. He’s hailed as a hero.
But his hero’s welcome turns sour when the FBI reveals Jewell as an attention-seeking suspect. As he is branded a wannabe terrorist, his life swings from dream to nightmare. Can Jewell reclaim his good name?
Based on the true story of a villainized hero, Richard Jewell should be a terrifying look at why real, sourced reporting is essential to civic lives. The film is directed by Clint Eastwood, so expect lots of stark, dark shots and haunting performances.
Prospects: Good Drama • R • 129 mins.
The Two Popes
The death of John Paul II puts the Catholic Church at a crossroads between tradition and reform. Two men emerge as possible leaders: Benedict (Anthony Hopkins), a staunch German conservative, and Francis (Jonathan Pryce), a tango-dancing Argentinian who eschews church wealth to live simply among the people.
Both disagree on nearly anything, but they respect each other. As they discuss philosophy, faith and soccer, they form a deep bond.
Beautifully acted and interestingly scripted The Two Popes is not only a study in opposed theology but also a surprisingly funny look at how two opposites formed a lasting friendship. Whether or not you’re Catholic, this is a chance to watch two great British actors show off.
Prospects: Good Drama • PG-13 • 125 mins.