| Krisha returns for Thanksgiving dinner after ten years away from her family, but past demons threaten to ruin the festivities.
This is a family drama with the heft of a psychological thriller, and while it may not be flawless, it’s bolstered by strong performances, editing, and direction. The film was financed through Kickstarter, filmed in nine days, and a majority of the cast is the writer/director/editor’s family. It’s a pretty ordinary story, but the way that Trey Edward Shults crafts this story with his direction and editing are just some of the ways that the film escapes the boundaries of its genre. The movie plays with its aspect ratios to simulate the ever-changing emotional claustrophobia and freedom in a subtle way. The score is arhythmic and uncomfortable, once or twice reminding me of The Shining.
Mr. Shults has economically and effectively cast many of his own family members, and filmed in his mother’s home outside of Houston. Krisha is his real life Aunt, and Robyn (who plays Krisha’s emotionally devastated sister) is the director’s mother. This is a story that works because of the realness of each moment. It feels like family members unloading on each other rather than two actors reciting lines. Krisha’s swig of wine in the bathroom provides a moment of relief for both her and the viewer. Having been called “heartbreak incarnate” and an “abandoneer” … we even sympathize with her instinct to retreat to the bottle, though it’s with dread and misery.
| “I had to leave to be a better human.”
As said before, the movie has beautiful cinematography that features long tracking shots, long static shots, slow zooms, montage, all kinds of styles completely different from one another, but all of which work together seamlessly for tremendous effect. Brian McOmber’s score works in the same way: it’s jittery and syncopated when Krisha feels anxious towards the beginning, and more luscious and full during emotional scenes towards the end. Through the editing we see how she thinks or how she plays back a recent conversation in her head through her personal filter. When the editing is disjointed, time blends together to create the mental state of Krisha, and the emotional impact can be devastating. Every artistic choice from every area of production is perfectly orchestrated to make the audience feel the pain and disorder Krisha feels, even if that’s something they’ve never experienced before.
The film acts as a love letter to Krisha and others like her. This movie is their hug, and after watching it, you’ll know why they need one. Krisha has no achievements or qualities that make us like her, but Shults shows us that we don’t need any of that to empathize with her. We just need to know what it feels like to be her, and that’s what this film achieves. Just like the audience, Krisha’s family sees little reason to have her around at times, and she may be a burden, but they love her and hope for her best. Krisha’s low self esteem blinds her to this truth, and it’s heartbreaking as an audience member to see the love people unconditionally have for her, and for her not to recognize it.
Go into Krisha not knowing much because its plot synopsis doesn’t do its execution justice. Just know that it’s emotionally affective and refreshingly raw thanks to the technical choices. It isn’t perfect, but it still wrings a lot of earned domestic drama out of a rather familiar premise, further helped by its performances and direction. Trey Edward Shults is a filmmaker to look out for, as with a micro-budget like this, it’s intriguing to see what he’ll be able to do in the future.