tobe_whooper’s review published on Letterboxd:
Apparently this hasn't been seen/reviewed by anybody in my letterboxd circle yet, and I know it's gonna get a bunch of Oscars and shit so let me be the first to say FUCK THIS MOVIE.
It's nothing but a naive white perspective on African American trauma that views white pain with compassion and black pain as spectacle, dressed up with a bunch of flashy film-bro stylistics and superficial "whoa Tarkovsky" masturbatory references, all to disguise the fundamental problem that this is not his story to tell. The MASSIVE blindspots in Shults's white authorial lens lead to the film reproducing much of the injustices of America's white supremacist project, and not in a knowing or ironic way. It's being misleadingly sold as a black film, which it's emphatically not (even though it wants SO BADLY to be Moonlight); instead, it's a film for suburban white Kamala Harris-voting moms to watch and feel bad but also hopeful because "life is just hard for everybody, you know?"
(A few days after watching Waves, I was privileged to chat with Wanuri Kahiu about the process of getting Rafiki funded, and she was talking about certain grants she was offered on the condition that she add more trauma to the screenplay, saying "some people think they're being progressive, but really all they want is to see black people in pain." I think Trey Edward Shults must have gotten one of those grants because goddamn.)
But all of that will be forgiven or overlooked by pseudo-woke film bros because "whoa Tarkovsky."
Fuck this movie.