A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Watching "Krisha" is a revelation: there are expected "rules" for such material (a former addict returns home for a holiday), but then director/writer Trey Edward Shults breaks every rule, making those rules seem tired and arbitrary in the process, and he does so with bravura, confidence, flash. While the style is in-your-face, every element of it (a show-stopping score by Brian McOmber, Drew Daniels' camera-work, Shults' editing) is in service to the story, and to the story beneath the story, how destroyed this family has been by Krisha's addiction. "Krisha" (which won the Grand Jury prize at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival) is an assault, from the first unforgettable moment on, and Shults' style clues you in from the get-go that this won't be your familiar "addiction/redemption tale." This is going to be something very, very different. This tour de force is even more astonishing when you learn that it is Shults' first feature.
Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), an older woman with flowing grey hair and a body rolling with curves, returns to the family home for Thanksgiving, after presumably decades lost to addiction. (As she pulls up to the curb outside the house, the hem of her dress sticks out from the bottom of the car door. That detail says it all.) She's sober now and desperate to re-enter the family circle. Her presence at Thanksgiving is a test after years of letting everyone down and ruining family gatherings. She has promised to cook the Thanksgiving turkey, a big job (considering the number of people present), but she's happy to take on the responsibility because it will prove she's got her act together, she's a good girl now, they can trust her.
The family gathered is multi-generational. There is Krisha's sister Robyn (Robyn Fairchild) and Robyn's technologically-challenged husband (who can't figure out his phone, his computer, or the remotes), their kids, the kids' spouses, cousins, plus a newborn, plus Krisha's ancient mother. The house is open on the first floor, rooms pouring into other rooms, a tiled floor with no rugs to absorb the noise. The voices bounce off the walls, total cacophony, creating a believable atmosphere of a rambunctious, close family. Krisha enters, and people line up to hug her, happy that this lost lamb might be on the right track finally. But there's a formal quality to the reunion. The family has been hurt deeply by Krisha. She has missed decades in their lives. One of the kids (Shults himself) keeps his distance, even when she clutches him to her. He pats her back stiffly, retreats.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, Krisha prepares the turkey, (at one point the bandage on her finger—a finger missing its tip from some unexplained catastrophe—disappears inside the bird), sneaking out to smoke butts on the patio, or retreating to the bathroom upstairs to stare at herself in the mirror, trying to calm down. The cousins, all boys around the same age (high school and college), have arm-wrestling contests, watch football, sneak off to watch porn upstairs, play boardgames. The family has moved on without Krisha, the space she used to take up is no longer there.