So close, so far awayPhoto: A24

5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Press screening, it’s A24, and my local filmmaker was receiving numerous raves and awards.
What I Thought: A simply astonishing debut from Shultz. I riff off my Fox Searchlight refrain: “A24 does it again!”

Krisha. Dir. Trey Edward Shults (also wrote, produced, and starred). Perf. Krisha Fairchild, Trey Edward Shults, Robyn Fairchild, Bill Wise, Billie Fairchild. A24, 2015.

After years of estrangement due to her addiction, Krisha attends family Thanksgiving with hopes of reconciliation… and perhaps more baggage than she can carry.

After charming SXSW and the Independent Spirits, Krisha makes its wide release weekend, the work of dazzling new talent Trey Edward Shults. Having worked under famed, thoughtful director Terence Malick (including the master’s exquisite The Tree of Life), the apprentice cuts his own path of astute observation and powerhouse delivery.

Here we meet Krisha, a woman struggling with alcohol and drug addiction having long burned the bridges of goodwill with her family, rendering them cinders of wariness. Now having earned a cautious return thanks to a period of sobriety, she attends family Thanksgiving with hopes of reconciliation… and perhaps more baggage than she can carry.

Whenever I say “the direction could have been stronger,” what we see here is the yardstick I’m using. Simply stunning. Shults brings the poetry of a Malick moment to the everyday environs of a family home, choreographing extended sequences that lean into daily life and at one point masterfully extending three seconds into fifteen that foreshadow the years of consequence ahead (I actually cupped both hands over my mouth and murmured “No, no, no no no no no”).

Not only does he direct Krisha with a creative eye the envy of many much older and far more experienced, Shults also wrote the script, served as producer, and stars as the estranged son of the titular character. A true family affair employing his actual relatives as cast and filming entirely in their home (over the course of a mere nine days, no less), Shults created Krisha from the combined figures of several off-screen family members who suffered with addiction, and renders the fallout with remarkable precision. Real Aunt Krisha brings her professional actor’s chops to the nuance necessary to capturing the fictional Krisha’s fragility and stubbornness, while mom Robyn brings her professional mental health counselor experience to her role as Krisha’s emotionally rent sister.

Under Shults’ superb execution, Krisha joins the rarefied few in cinema which fully capture the wreckage of addiction as it dismantles every life it touches, ravaging both the life of the person gripped and those in their field of gravity. Below are its campadrés, all of which enlighten us to the plight with clear-eyed compassion, and light the way toward recovery and the new history it can craft.

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