Krisha is seen with a missing portion of her finger, which is never explained throughout the film; in real life actress Krisha Fairchild lost the tip of her index finger while trying to break up a dogfight shortly before the start of filming. She wanted to back out of the film because of the injury but eventually agreed to stay on. See more »
A scary and authentic exploration of troubled family dynamics
The unpleasant dynamics and tensions that many families navigate during the holidays can sometimes be downright horrifying. "Krisha," the story of a woman reunited with her family after she estranged herself many years ago in order to face her demons, is a stark reminder of how traumatic confronting the past can be.
Starring his aunt (Krisha Fairchild) and featuring himself and many of his family members, filmmaker Trey Edward Shults has gone extremely personal for his debut feature (based off a short of the same name). The film has a documentary-like feel at times and the family dynamics that play out on screen seem unusually authentic and genuine. Yet underneath it all, Shults works with camera technique and a non-traditional score to remind us how unsettling and difficult this is for his title character.
"Krisha," the film and the character, slowly becomes unhinged over the course of the film. Shults' script smartly denies us the amount of background information we'd like to have; we don't need to know exactly what she's done or what her problems were to be able to observe how frazzled this environment makes her and how confronting these long- ignored but deep-rooted relationships could dismantle her mentally and emotionally.
Shults begins and ends his film with close-ups of Krisha's face giving an indiscernible expression, perhaps with the goal of empathy. Normally we would empathize with the "normal" family members and in many ways we still do, but Shults stays close to Krisha in nearly every moment of the film and gives us piercing access to who she is. Fairchild rises up to meet the challenges that level of intimacy places on an actor. We see Krisha's discomfort and pain, and the sadness when her desire to make things right hits the roadblock of the pain she caused others in the past.
When tension does turn over to drama, the way it plays out feels impressively true to life. Shults clearly plays loose with his script, allowing these unseasoned actors to draw on their own experiences (and perhaps some actual family dynamics) and improvise dialogue. Even if you haven't had a family member melt down in front of everyone, there's a raw truth to the way tense scenes between people play out. That authenticity only makes "Krisha" all the more haunting.
Shults' direction and editing, however, is really the star of this film. He has strong instincts in terms of suspense, creating that slow build and unhinging of his film in the most simple of ways. Even in the most mundane of scenes, he draws forward any tension lurking beneath the surface. He also allows us to see, hear and experience things as the overmedicated mind of Krisha does, yet the techniques are not heavy-handed. He even plays with the chronology of events, weaving together scenes to focus on the emotional arc of the story as it pertains to Krisha rather than feeling beholden to how everything builds up in real time. The result is a much stronger portrait of Krisha and what's truly happening at a deeper level.
Filmmakers that can wield tension and suspense in this way have the skills to tell just about any story well, which bodes well for Shults' career. If he can turn the story of a troubled woman relapsing at Thanksgiving into what you might argue is a horror film that at times verges on Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream," the sky's the limit.
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