Here’s the latest dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media:

Waves opens in select theaters tonight (Nov. 15) and wide over Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 29). Rated R for adult themes, language and one violent incident.

Synopsis (from the film’s website): Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike, Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family—led by a well-intentioned but domineering father—as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times. Starring: Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges //Written & Directed by: Trey Edward Shults

IMHO: Nearly forty years after Robert Redford ripped the veil off upper middle class family life in 1980’s Ordinary People, comes this generation’s remarkable addition to the genre That, in this case, the family in question is African-American may in some sense be a testament to how for society has come – but it also exemplifies how a lack communication can bedevil any family regardless of class or color. And, how individuals, families and society at large stand to benefit by a less judgement and more forgiveness.

I’m not sure labeling Waves as a faith-based movie will enhance its much-deserved awards chances but the film forthrightly deals with issues of faith and mercy more effectively than most films that are promoted as such. Non-religious audiences who seek honest, gritty drama will find a lot savor. Likewise, those who consider themselves people of faith (and are willing to look beyond the occasional and realistic strong language) will find a movie that uses the words of the apostle Paul (“Love is patient…”) to build its heartfelt case for a kinder, gentler dynamic among families – and world in general. Yet, as clearly as that message is delivered, this is a subtle movie. At no time will you feel manipulated or hit over the head with a Bible.

Writer-director Trey Edwards Shultz has a lot on his mind and heart but the story he has created conveys it all organically – like he’s more interested in representing non-judgemental truth than he is in delivering a “message.”

As to the cast, it is first fate from top to bottom. Sterling K. Brown of TV’s This is Us is perhaps the most well-known to general audiences and he is mesmerizing as the strong (perhaps too strong) father figure struggling to keep his family – and himself – together. And the rest of the cast shines just as brightly, including Renée Elise Goldsberry (who won a Tony for her role in Broadway’s Hamilton) as his wife, business partner and stepmother of his children, Taylor Russell (of Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot) as his distraught daughter and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. as his son whose impetuous tragic action thrusts the entire family into an emotional maelstrom. Alexa Demie (HBO’s Euphoria) and Lucas Hedges (2018’s Boy Erased) also stand out in pivotal supporting roles.

I’m wary about saying too much more about this movie since it really needs to be experienced. While it’s more character-driven than plot-driven there is a plot twist, if you will, that I literally gasped at. Be forewarned, it’s shocking in the way that real life can sometimes be shocking.

The Bottom Line: Writer-Director Trey Edward Shults proves himself a brilliant young filmmaker, delivering a powerful story with totally believable characters – while drawing award-worthy performances from an excellent cast. There’s is not a single false note to be found in Waves. Highly recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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