Tag Archives: A24

Trey Edward Shults’s Waves

Trey Edward Shults’s Waves is one of those films that is so good I don’t even feel qualified enough as a writer to review it, for fear that my cumbersome prose and tangential asides won’t properly impart the essence of the film and just how important this story is both to the ‘idea’ of the cinematic narrative and to our perception of life as a narrative in itself, encompassing our own individual trajectories, that of those around us and how they all interact, glide, and crash together in beautifully chaotic, poetically imperfect fashion as we move through the world. I’ll call this a ‘narrative flow’ instead of a story, and I don’t mean to sound pretentious but this really feels like an organic current as opposed to a scripted story, one can feel the super-sensible beats beneath what is onscreen in an unalloyed fashion that few films are able to achieve. This is basically a window of time into the life of an upper middle class African American family from Florida who fall victim to the same learning curves, tragedies, hard times and personal trials that every human being must weather and endure. The domineering, overbearing yet loving father (Sterling K. Brown), the quietly soulful and intuitive daughter (Taylor Russell), the athletic, emotionally overwhelmed son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and the supportive, compassionate stepmother (Renee Elise Goldsberry). The son is a rising star in a stable relationship with a girl he loves (Alexa Demie) and everything seems to be going just as it should.. until the unthinkable happens, and the narrative flow tears our hearts out before pivoting 180 degrees to focus on the daughter more, and her blossoming relationship with a boy she meets at school (Lucas Hedges). I won’t say more about these events beyond that because its so important to go into this one with open heart, mind and expectations. Every single actor in this film goes above and beyond to bring this piece to life, delving deep into their craft toolbox and emotional intelligence and providing painstakingly realistic cultivations that come across as actual complex, imperfect, intricate human beings free of character convention or any kind of cliche. My favourite performance has to be Taylor Russell as the daughter, who is an unbelievable find and shares a heartbreaking, soul-decimating scene with Brown as her father that anchors both their arcs and sees the two artists reach notes of performance I didn’t think possible in the medium. The title of this film is important n understanding what director Shults (who is now on my genius list, by the way) is trying to show us about human beings and the world: Waves crash along the shoreline, recede into the sea only to crash once more in apparent arbitration. As this process occurs, little ripples dapple the sandy coasts and billow out to form more ripples, currents and other shapes all across the canvas of the ocean, and this too seems to have no discernible order or symmetry. In the same fashion, human beings collide with one another in horrific acts of violence, deeply connected loving relationships and choices both constructive and destructive, only to do it all over again the next time round. These acts and choices ripple out across our collective consciousness and affect others in their choices, deeds and relationships and you just never know how one wave might affect someone else’s life, and that may seem terrifyingly random and alien to us, human beings who so badly crave order and reason, but is there not a beautiful disarray to the unpredictability of it all? This film is a brief aperture into the complexities of our world, and the characters that Shults presents to us couldn’t be more affecting or relatable in their struggles, choices and relationships. This film is nothing short of a masterpiece, from the dedicated vulnerability of the actors to the hazy, celestial coastal cinematography to the rapturous equilibrium employed in editing to the otherworldly electronic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the wonderful, heartbreaking but ultimately life affirming narrative flow beneath it all. I couldn’t count high enough in my lifetime to give this an out of ten rating, which should give you an indication of how much I loved this film.

-Nate Hill

Ari Aster’s Hereditary

Hereditary more like Herediterrifying. I know I’m late to the party but Ari Aster’s supremely disturbing chiller deserves all the hype and more, it’s a beautifully designed, aggressively scary bag of fun that walks a line between being deeply, psychologically upsetting as well as otherworldly, supernaturally haunting. It’s striking to find a debut this good from a first time director, but the guy handles all elements seemingly effortlessly and the result is an immersive, atmospheric, competently staged, elemental fright flick that will literally have you sleeping with the lights on after.

Toni Colette gives the performance of a lifetime as a wife and mother somewhat grieving the loss of her own mom, who was a secretive, difficult old goat in life. Her husband (Gabriel Byrne) is somewhat detached, her two kids (Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff) have their own issues. It isn’t until further tragedy strikes this family that we begin to see fissures crack in both their individual psyches and relationships as a group. Grief is a hell of a thing and it can turn a family dynamic ugly and venomous pretty quick, but there’s something else circling this clan, an intangible malevolence that I’ll shut up about right now because it’s a diabolical thrill piecing it together along the way. I will say pay attention to *every* frame though, as there are clues aplenty embedded in the visual scape. Colette displays several remarkably realistic meltdowns and I shudder to think of the personal process that led her to that level of mania because she’s downright unnerving. Byrne doesn’t do too many high profile films anymore but it’s always great to see him, he underplays it here but is no less unsettling as a guy who seems uncomfortable around his own family, one of the several taboos the film plays with. Shapiro doesn’t do much as the daughter but her unearthly presence alone is enough to get us squirming, she is one weird looking kid. Wolff, on the other hand, is quite excellent and has a couple scenes of heightened distress that are pretty staggering. A shout-out to character actress Ann Dowd too who, I’m happy to say, is getting more work than ever before these days and finally has a sizeable outlet for her talent.

One aspect that makes this such a freaky thing to sit through is that none of the family members, and no other characters in the film in fact, are really likeable characters. They’re somber, sullen, withdrawn weirdos who make heinous mistakes and harbour unthinkable secrets and when the horrors start coming for them it kind of feels warranted. There’s this blanket of mental unrest and familial turmoil that hangs over everything and provides the film with a canvas of unrest for the paranormal horror to gradually encroach on like fog on the horizon, and the mixture makes for an almost unbearable ride through hell that was the scariest viewing experience for me since 2014’s It Follows. It’s also darkly beautifully though, Aster mounts some detailed, artistic and pagan inspired production design that’s like eye candy, he lights the sets starkly and specifically and plays around with miniatures in transitions and shot compositions for a visual experience like no other. Don’t even get me started on the score by Colin Stetson that plays like a nightmare brought to life, as does this masterpiece of a horror classic.

-Nate Hill

PTS Presents Cinematographer’s Corner with SEAN PORTER

porter powercast


sean_porterPodcasting Them Softly is thrilled to present a chat with cinematographer Sean Porter, who recently shot the film KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER, and who has the highly anticipated thriller GREEN ROOM set for release later this year from A24. He’s also finished a pair of very intriguing projects with THE TRUST, which stars Nicolas Cage, Jerry Lewis and Elijah Wood, and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, from director Mike Mills, and starring Elle Fanning, Alia Shawkat, Greta Gerwig, and Annette Benning. Sean got his start working on a variety of shorts, features, and documentaries, and has roots firmly planted in indie film community, and you can just tell from observing his work that he’s a talent to seriously look out for in the near future. His work on KUMIKO was beyond striking, announching an exciting and dynamic new visual eye to emerge on the cinematic scene, and it’s a film that we here at PTS are massive fans of and hope everyone will get a chance to check out. We hope you enjoy this most excellent discussion!