Michael’s review published on Letterboxd:
Focusing on the film itself, I found myself incredibly engaged with the first half. A frenetic pace backed by its sinister-like content backed by that excellent Reznor/Atticus score, although I have a bone to pick with that disingenuous OST. I like/love literally every artist featured but dude, it sounds like someone forgot they had to do this and just put on a "This is: Frank Ocean" playlist taken straight from Spotify (to the point that I'm surprised they didn't end up throwing Kanye's Waves somewhere in here and don't even start with that laughable I Am A God sequence.) The plot is mostly predictable but I always had a morbid curiosity for it all, culminating in my auditorium gasping at the climactic sequence of events.
And then it turns into... a whole different movie about a character that had shown up for all of five seconds whose emotional arc centers around a dude we had never seen before that we definitely don't care about? If that portion of the movie wants to be about Emily, why undercut her with that? There isn't another way you can tell that portion of her road to recovery? I see that it's trying to draw parallels between the two stories and it definitely gets cute with stuff like the 360-tracking shot, but it's so jarring that it did not work for me at all. I think this story can work with its own focus and time, but not off the heels of something completely different.
I didn't really care one way or another about the director's controversy, I just want to see a good movie. But you must admit there's something strange about it? I think Shults wants to sidestep it by equating it to a family that happens to be African-American instead of the specific experience of one, but I feel like you can't just separate the two. I just tried to be honest with myself and asked if I would feel comfortable creating something with the content that happens in Waves and I squirm each time I think about it.
All in all, I liked Wa\, but I hated /es. It's technically well-done with stellar performances, beautifully shot, and was so engaging in the first half that I'm almost begrudgingly putting it above other films I've seen this year.
Side-note: These A24 kids better stop putting appendages outside of car windows, I sink into my seat every time.