I am by no means a film critic, so I’m not going to try to say anything groundbreaking about Waves. I can only talk about how it made me feel. I saw it at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago a few months ago, but it’s still sticking with me, as the powerful ones usually do. I first saw something about this movie last fall when it was part of the Chicago International Film Festival, but I wasn’t able to see it then. Man, was it worth the wait. From the start, with its enveloping soundtrack, it feels a bit like a music video – each vignette making up the whole in a moving, shocking, and intimate way.
While the plot begins by following a teenage boy and his high school experience in a somewhat typical coming-of-age type of way, you quickly realize that it’s a different type of story as you get to know him through his health struggles, the tense relationship with his parents, and the unraveling situation with his girlfriend. Not only does the plot take unexpected twists and turns, but the talent of the actors to convey their inner sensibilities is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time…not since Blue is the Warmest Color, which I first saw in 2013 when it came out. Waves perfectly encapsulates that devastating, raw, heartbreaking sense of loss that I so loved about Blue is the Warmest Color. I felt this heartbreak throughout the second half of the movie while sitting in that dark, fairly empty movie theater, sitting next to a good friend and fellow film lover, and I continued to feel a sense of sorrow afterward. It’s a profound movie about tragedy and loss and love. So many feels that embody the human condition.
Upon seeing my first preview for Blue is the Warmest Color I didn’t really know what to think about it except that I loved the music selection by Beach House. By the second or third time I saw a preview for it, my interest was hooked. The night I went to see the film was memorable and I distinctly remember that it was raining and there weren’t many people in the theater. I got popcorn, as I usually do, but it didn’t seem to last me very long because the movie was lengthy, rounding out at 3 hours. By the time the movie was over and I left the theater it was 11 o’clock, later than I usually leave a movie theater and it was raining again. I was excited to see the film, but I had not idea what kind of treat I was in for; it’s the kind of movie that you remember the whole experience of going to see it, and not just the movie itself, which are always fond memories for me.
I can honestly say that Blue is the Warmest Color is one the most beautiful, genuine movies I have ever seen, which I was not at all expecting going into it. Its NC-17 rating is definitely justified, as there is a fair amount of sexual content in it, which I can imagine turns off certain audiences that would otherwise really like the film. However, for me, this is not what I remember about the film. What I remember is the incredible sincerity of emotions expressed mostly by Adele, the main character, but also by her lover Emma, and the authentic love story that it is. Their relationship exemplifies an exploration that most of us have probably thought about, but not necessarily carried out. I for one know that I have questioned my sexuality, but have never had a sexual experience with a woman and don’t plan to. It is, however, something I have thought about and I am not ashamed or embarrassed about it.
The French language is beautiful and it particularly stood out to me during the literature classes that Adele attends. The ideas expressed in the classes made me envious and wish I was there. The plot flows so well and it does feel like a long movie, as it is, but it certainly keep you intrigued the whole time. The soundtrack is appropriately placed alongside each scene to evoke certain moods, which, for me, was particularly strong during Adele’s birthday party, as the video above demonstrates. Then there’s the party in celebration of Emma’s artwork and the conversations at the party feel so real, as do most all of the conversations in the film, and made me wish I was part of it. Adele and Emma open up to each other about philosophy and art and you can really feel the intimacy between them, not only physically but also intellectually since they’re always learning from each other.
The film is not without heartbreak, but it wouldn’t feel as authentic if it wasn’t, since heartbreak is such a natural and inevitable facet of love. Their breakup is incredibly sad and although Emma may seem overly harsh, her reaction is fairly accurate; even so, I found myself sympathizing with Adele. I felt the heartbreak the most towards the end when Adele and Emma meet again after having been broken up for a while and I could literally feel that there was still love between them, and although they have a reunion of sorts, it ends with them going their separate ways again. I really felt for Adele in a way that I’ve never felt for any other character in a film before. It’s an incredibly powerful scene. I could also identify with Adele in the way that she desperately tries to move on with her life without Emma, but unsuccessfully so. I think anyone who has been broken up with can identify with her in this way to a certain extent. It’s striking how the actresses are able to show so much real emotion on screen, which makes it feel as authentic as it does and evokes the powerful response from its viewers that it does.
The French title of the film, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, suggests that we might perhaps see a sequel with more chapters. I certainly hope so, as I am dying to know more about Adele’s life and her intimate relationships. Although with the controversy over the filming of the movie, it may be unlikely that we will see more on this project from these two actresses.
Labor Day is a film about loss, one of the hardest things that we face in life but also something that we all inevitably experience. I know it hasn’t gotten the best reviews, but there were definitely aspects of it that I really appreciated. I thought the cinematography was beautiful and captured light and intimacy very nicely. At times the plot felt like inorganic and like it didn’t flow, but the film did have some redeeming qualities as it went on. The character development was good, especially of Frank and Adele, and watching their relationship blossom was touching. Food and the art of cooking was a nice addition to the film, which is something that I personally always enjoy. There is something about cooking and the way that it employs all the senses that is almost seductive and I thought the way the film portrayed food was captivating. There were elements of fear and suspense as the plot revealed itself and I began to feel sympathetic towards the characters who at first seemed unlikeable and emotionless. The plot takes place over the course of a few days, Labor Day weekend, but the present is intertwined with flashbacks from the past, which make the film feel longer than just a few days. This also allows you to get to know the characters better than you would otherwise. The sense of loss is the most prominent part of the film and it can genuinely be felt at times throughout the whole film, which is heartbreaking but very relatable since it is an inevitable part of life and something that affects all of us in varying ways. There was, of course, also a sense of hope at the end and it did have a happy ending, but it shows you how life is a journey with many hardships and only some rewards.