This debut film from filmmaker Don Gerardo Frasco is photographed grandly yet constructed intimately that is reminiscent of the work of Terrence Malick, but in a way that thankfully feels inspired rather than imitative. While the pacing and editing of the film flow with the cinematography in a free and poetic nature that has been canonized in the work of Malick, the film stands apart from Malick’s influence. The film follows Ross (Baron Geisler) and Sofia (Ilona Struzik), two friends who reconnect over the course of a few days and take a trip to a secluded island and attempt a failed romance.
There is an evident tenderness between the two characters that is subtly realized and emphatically felt by Baron Geisler and Ilona Struzik as the couple. Geisler plays Ross with a certain toughness that masks his battered soul, with Struzik playing Sofia with a profound sense of isolation and weariness. While some of their dialogue feels forced, the emotions never do. When they talk it’s with an awkward stiffness as if they’re speaking a language they’ve never learned before. In some ways it lends credibility to the stumbling that they do to connect and believe in their romance, but for the most part just distracts from their otherwise radiant chemistry. In their eyes is their warmth for each other, and Geisler and Struzik have a lived-in shorthand in how they look at each other and behave.
The cinematography by Frasco (apparently he can do it all) is admirable and stunning. Ross and Sofia spend plenty of time talking out their feelings, but Don Frasco seems more comfortable – as does the film – simply peeking in and observing the intimate moments of silence between the two. He realizes the connection between these two when they are silent, their presence enough to communicate the feelings between the two. The camera observes them observing each other, creating a sense of intimacy between the two that transcends to the viewer.
The film is at its best when it uses non-dialogue ways of communicating the emotions and dynamics between the couple. Ross draws a tattoo on Sofia to solidify their bond, which she then scrubs off later to erase their connection. Frasco uses the gorgeous and photogenic surroundings to heighten and manifest the emotions of these two. The pair walk through a broken down and abandoned hut as they confront that their relationship isn’t heading anywhere, but the possibility that maybe it could. Maybe they could rebuild? The waves repeatedly photographed – and the representative title – are the push and pull between these two.
While the film stumbles through its dialogue and it’s clear where Frasco is taking his cinematic template from, it’s also clear that there is talent on display between Frasco and his cast. It’s promise that isn’t fully realized, but is there. Geisler and Struzik can certainly emote, but still have room to grow as performers. A mark of success for most directorial debuts is to simply make an impression, and Frasco has managed to make a promsing one with Waves.