From its cold, brooding Bergmanesque opening…to the discordant chords of its Johnny Greenwood style score…to the cyclorama of its spinning DePalma inspired camera…writer/director/star Trey Edward Shults borrows from the best to put on display one woman’s spiraling miasma of bad life choices, addiction and emotional abuse that can’t help but tar the lungs of everyone around her like lingering cigarette smoke.
Krisha looks like a student film but hums like a the seasoned work of a master. When Krisha (played with eerie frantic madness by Krisha Fairchild, the director’s own aunt) pops in for Thanksgiving dinner, the tension slowly builds amongst the family. Shults brilliantly shows Krisha’s various levels of disconnect and desperation as she both distances herself and awkwardly tries to connect…her dependency on a variety of mind-altering substances coupled with her hysteric self-doubt and self-loathing building a psychic wall that haunts the house and her loved ones like a screaming banshee.
While I expected to see a dysfunctional family and the holiday from hell, I did not expect the level of studied cinematic touches Shults employs. The symbolism. The framing. The editing. Oh, and the acting! Krisha conjures psyhcological cyclones that emotionally hijack every single moment and feeling from her family, sucking the life-force from them like a vampire.
And you think to yourself, how could anyone love this woman? And the film answers that in a blistering culmination. First, we see the aftermath of Krisha’s madness and the particular moment that boils over into a frothing EVENT from her sister’s point of view. There are tears and heartfelt pleas…an emotional intervention of sorts. And as touched as I was by her sister’s unconditional love for her, I wanted to scream at her sister, “Don’t you see! You’re enabling her!”
But then…ahhhh…we see the EVENT and its aftermath from Krisha’s twisted point of view. She hears only the screaming. The words she remembered are only ones that hurt. She feels only discord. She reflects only her own self-hatred onto the one who has always loved her most. The sister wasn’t enabling her. She couldn’t even get through to her. Krisha is forever lost.
It’s devastating. It’s sobering. It’s art. But the saddest part is that someone like Krisha would never be able to see the forest for the trees. This film, then, it seems, is for the sister…for the ones, who in spite of whatever storm comes their way, nevertheless…intervene…and persist…and insist that life can be nicer than this shit sandwich.
Written by David H. Schleicher