SXSW FILM 2015
By Don Simpson | March 24, 2015
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writer: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Krisha Fairchild, Robyn Fairchild, Bill Wise, Chris Doubek, Olivia Grace Applegate, Alex Dobrenko, Chase Joliet, Bryan Casserly, Billie Fairchild, Augustine Frizzell, Victoria Fairchild, Rose Nelson, Trey Edward Shults
We are slowly transported into the world of Trey Edward Shults’ Krisha by way of a long and deliberate tracking shot that follows the titular Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) as she makes her way to her sister (Robyn Fairchild) and brother-in-law’s (Chris Doubek) house for Thanksgiving weekend. Even the simple journey from Krisha curbside parking space to the front door of the house is not without trials and tribulations; by the time Krisha rings the doorbell, the carefully masked discomfort on her face already begins to reveal signs of cracking.
Upon entering into the crowded and bustling household it becomes apparent that Krisha is not the only person hiding their heavy sense of dread and unease. The words of Krisha’s family may seem perfectly cordial, but the camera carefully evaluates the inner intensity of their facial expressions and body movements. Shults’ bravely unnerving character study penetrates the souls of the familiar gathering, methodically uncovering the enormous moat that has been constructed to protect Krisha’s family from her. While this visit might be an act of penance for Krisha as she quietly hopes for forgiveness, the success of the Thanksgiving dinner rests partially on the ability of her family to reaccept her.
This disarming discomfort of this character study is not only escalated by Brian McOmber’s alarmingly dissonant and discordant score (which brilliantly echoes the unraveling unease of Krisha’s mental state), but also by Shults’ bravely personal approach to the story. Loosely based upon his own family’s history, Shults casts himself, his mother, aunt and others to play fictionalized versions of themselves, thus intensifying the extreme naturalism of the scenarios.
Channeling John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence, Shults tunes into the unbridled desperation of a troubled and alienated human being trying to reconnect with a timid family who wants nothing more than to protect themselves from being hurt again. Avoiding exposition, Shults adopts a near-experimental visual language to communicate the exhaustingly complex web of emotions at play. While Krisha adopts a purely observational approach to storytelling, Shults’ stylistic visual choices — such as the use of various aspect ratios — are specifically crafted to inform our perceptions of the onscreen events.