Krisha – Addiction Ruins Thanksgiving, Tears Family Apart

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Directed and written by Trey Edward Shults. Produced by J.P. Castel and Jonathan R. Chan. Release date: March 18, 2016.

Addiction can ruin even the best of us. The daily struggle of a recovering addict can seem unwinnable. Krisha is a film that deals with this, following the eponymous lead (played by Krisha Fairchild), alcoholic older woman who has been estranged from her family for some time but claims she’s got her act together. So, then, she returns to them at one of the most opportune – or inopportune – times: Thanksgiving. Even for those not dealing with some sort of illness, Thanksgiving can be a trying time. One can only imagine how difficult it would be for someone like Krisha.

Actually, we don’t need to imagine, since Krisha is a film that does a phenomenal job of showcasing exactly how this might feel. The second shot of the film, a take of several minutes which sees Krisha arrive in the neighborhood, get lost, and eventually find herself embraced in a lukewarm manner by her family. Just in the opening moments, we feel her anxiety, and can already tell that this probably won’t go well. She probably knows that, too. Still, she dons a brave face and attempts to deal with an overwhelming situation.

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Of course, we don’t initially know exactly why Krisha was estranged from the family. That only comes up later, during various conversations and then one particularly explosive argument. We know something caused a rift – one which likely won’t be fixed with a single holiday – but aren’t 100% sure what. We know Krisha isn’t stable, and as the film progresses, her nerves unravel to a predictable conclusion. The background chit-chat and sideways glances become unbearable. This is a psychologically powerful drama.

There are a few things that sets Krisha apart from its contemporaries. The first is Krisha herself, who is the type of person whom we rarely see in movies, and here delivers such a tremendous performance that you can’t take your eyes off her. We’ve seen lots of addiction stories before, but rarely with an older woman and not often with this sense of intimacy. And, as it turns out, that intimate feeling isn’t fake; writer-director Trey Edward Shults cast a lot of his family in the film, and its story is based, at least in part, on real events.

Krisha is a tense, powerful, and rewarding film. It’s anchored by a terrific performance by Krisha Fairchild, and brought to us by first-time feature-length director Trey Edward Shults.

So, yes, Krisha is effectively a pseudo-documentary filmed largely with family and set in the family house and with a budget probably less than the daily catering budget on a mid-budget Hollywood production. And yet, despite this, it’s an engrossing and tightly packed drama grounded in reality, but with moments of stylish flourish. It’s a tightly wound film that doesn’t even come close to overstaying its welcome, and it leaves you with a haunting this-is-real feeling, something the movies often attempt but are unsuccessful in achieving.

Trey Edward Shults – who also has an acting role in the film – makes his feature-length debut with Krisha, adapting it from a short film of the same title. It’s a shockingly great debut. He confidently lets the story and the in-house tensions simmer. We slowly work our way through the home, meeting and getting to know four generations of this family, all while the anxiety and stress between all of the characters slowly builds. Handled poorly, this becomes overbearing and laughable. But Shults makes it feel tense, intimate, and quite sad. After all, addiction is a serious problem, and the film handles that realistically and sensitively.

The star, though, is Krisha Fairchild, who has acted intermittently for more than a couple of decades, but here breaks out in such a big way that it would be a shame if she wasn’t soon featured in much bigger films. Her slow unravelling in this film is frightening, and it’s because of her performance that so much of the film is successful. That’s not to disparage anything or anyone else, as the supporting cast is pretty good and the direction is great, but a lackluster performance would have sunk the entire production.

Krisha is a tense, powerful, and rewarding film. It’s anchored by a terrific performance by Krisha Fairchild and brought to us by first-time feature-length director Trey Edward Shults. It’s an intimate portrayal of addiction and the tensions that come from family get-togethers, and it feels incredibly real – even with some of its stylish flourishes thrown in. It’s a confident and slow movie, one which lets things simmer for a long time prior to unleashing it all at the climax. Krisha is a great movie.

Bottom Line: A fantastic debut and a wonderful film, Krisha deals with its subject matter confidently, sensitively, and with a great amount of generated tension.

Recommendation: If Krisha opens near you, go see it.



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