Review: Like Waves

Written and directed by Miles Berkley-Smith, seeking answers, a young woman meets her biological mother who gave her up as a child. Starring: Johanna Allitt, Indianna Ryan and John Sims.

There’s a striking visual as Like Waves opens, it’s colourful, sharp and has a superb amount of detail. Miles Berkley-Smith then adds to the initial wide shot with a number of close-up shots which immediately establish the atmosphere that this film’s going for. It’s well done and there’s a graceful simplicity to Berkley-Smith’s direction, which blends perfectly with the richness of Max Conran’s cinematography. There’s a great mix of using a well chosen indoor location as well as a lot of natural imagery to lean into the layered and complex nature to the emotional issues explored in the story. All of which is then strengthened by the score, by Joanna Karselis, which is delicately understated and elegant, accenting the emotions beautifully.

Johanna Allitt and Indianna Ryan are given a heavy task of bringing through a great deal of emotion and unspoken conflict within a short amount of time, and they do extremely well. One of the great things about the tone overall and their style of performance is that it holds back, it isn’t tempted to go into cheap territory of accusations and melodrama, it’s reasonable and highly relatable. Particularly with Indianna Ryan’s Jess as she gets across the struggle to maintain boundaries, there’s an intentional stiffness to portray her character’s reluctance to give herself away to a woman who already rejected her. There’s simultaneously a lovely edge of hesitation in that you can feel there’s more to Jess than we’re seeing, well done implications of a larger story at work and a well thought out arc. Johanna Allitt on the other hand gives a wonderful openness, you can see that she’s more than happy to lay everything out on the table, which is a perfect attitude to have for that intensely complicated situation. Allitt then brings a superb amount of emotion in exploring the regrets and disappointments of Kaye’s life, as well as how she’s lovingly accepted that life is unexpected and things won’t always be how you want them.

With a story of a long lost daughter, meeting her biological mother, in a café, it’s hard not to feel reminiscent of Mike Leigh’s excellent Secrets & Lies. It does hold a similar sincerity and grounded quality, there’s an everyday air to the way that the story is told, and that’s why it has such a relatable feel. The pacing moves well, it’s not about bringing a reveal, it’s simply about their interaction and as their connection evolves, it also brings through an edge of sweetness. However that edge rounds things out rather than trying to add a rosy feel which would undermine the down to earth quality, it has an awareness of the fact that life is messy and isn’t full of Hollywood endings.

Like Waves is quietly affecting, holding both a simplicity and a complexity. It’s a superb directorial debut from Miles Berkley-Smith, it has a strong aesthetic, there’s a great variety of shots and it effortlessly establishes a moving atmosphere. Johanna Allitt and Indianna Ryan both give touching performances, presenting completely different characters and creating a very satisfying experience of watching them figure out how to connect. It’s an intimate but accessible story and shows a huge amount of potential and talent from Berkley-Smith.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

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