“I’m working on finding a peaceful person inside me.”
Taking place on a Thanksgiving day that feels as thinly stretched and elongated as conversation with a distanced relative, Krisha – an entirely unique yet relatable subset of the great family reunion subgenre – shakes and rattles and rolls. It’s a cylindrical film; a whirlpool of emotions and individuals swirling around and occasionally clashing against one another. Not everything comes together and that’s because it isn’t supposed to. The style is dizzying, disorienting, all from the perspective of a woman selling herself as a bearer of refurbished integrity rather than the damaged goods behind the faux pas dressings. Krisha is so autonomous while so studied and lean, and is a frustratingly difficult film to sit through. Stay with it though. Every component of this anecdotal account is grounded with devastating purpose.
Krisha (Kree-shuh) is an elaboration upon a 2014 short film of the same name. The brains behind the machination is Trey Edward Shults, a burgeoning multi-hyphenate in every sense of the word. Director-writer-editor-actor. The guy’s fingertips can be found on each frame, much to the viewers’ benefit. Even without a deeper context, it’s clear as day from the opening shot that the story of Krisha is an intensely personal one, made up of bits and pieces of family members here and there. Shults shot the film over the span of a mere 9 days in his parents’ home with a bloodline cast which had almost zero percent acting experience. What an endeavor to set out upon, and what an end result the filmmaker was able to inspire in his relatives. Krisha’s territory has been claimed a hundred times over, but Shults completely gives himself to the process of reinvention and perspective. For that reason, his film feels familiar and dissident in the same taut, gasping breath.
Krisha Fairchild, Shults’ actual Aunt, stars as the eponymous figure. At a brisk 83 minutes in length, the downhill train of despair is one littered with hints and rifled with ambiguity. The 60 something returns to her sister’s home for the holiday, encountering many a faces that have gone unseen for some time. How long has she been away? Why the departure? What are the issues? We’re not sure. Krisha is a bit of a chain-smoking wreck, her neck adorned by a key to a metal box housing a cocktail of prescription meds. Like her, the film literally wears the secrets and the tension, aware of every character detail but never throwing the information into our faces. Many great films allow viewers to interpret underlying meaning and to make conjectures about motives or action. Krisha does both.
Early on in the movie, Krisha slugs down some pills before joining the family on the main floor. The scene is overwhelming. Noise coming from every which direction. Camera steady but ceaselessly panning back and forth. The score sounding like the mix of piano strings being cut and a tool chest emptying onto a garage floor in slow motion. Thunk, tink, pluck. It’s here, while this prodigal daughter handles the turkey by no coincidence, that Shults displays his intentions and his creative force as a storyteller. Too often we see movies and only get to observe the bad egg. In stark contrast, here we are Krisha. The fractured editing walks a mile in her shoes, conveying the mixed-up baggage of a stray who fights her own fires with gasoline. Krisha’s life is either inhibited, or in moments of intoxicated delight, as smooth and rhapsodic as jazz. Pay attention to the respite. Her past isn’t fully divulged, but walking through the home, surrounded by family and frames on the wall, she remains haunted. Krisha’s hypersensitivity is matched by a tender vulnerability, and it is one of the year’s strongest films thus far.
“I want to be in your life. I want to be close to you.”
Rating: 5 out of 5