Krisha (2016)

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Everyone knows that I adore independent cinema – I am a notoriously vocal champion for independent filmmakers, and I will supporting indie cinema until the very end. Without the daring vision of independent filmmakers, the producers that financed their films and the audiences who watched and loved their films, we wouldn’t have most of the filmmakers working today. Independent cinema is able to take a shoe-string budget and spin it into something absolutely golden, and many filmmakers have done amazing things with very little, and there is a minimalistic quality to a lot of independent films that give them their rough charms and distinctive atmosphere – essentially, the smallest and most intimate films normally end up being the most memorable.

Then you get Krisha, a film so minimalist in both story and execution, it actually becomes somewhat problematic as a film, because it is just way too simple and intimate to actually be an excellent film, or to go where this film wanted to go. Honestly, while I admired Krisha, I didn’t love it, and often found myself feeling a little left-behind on the story, and even though I am an ardent supporter of independent films, there needs to be somewhat of a limit to how a film is made, and how it portrays its story. That isn’t to say that Krisha is a bad film at all – in fact, it is a very good film – but with a concept like this, it could’ve made for something a lot more memorable and brilliant, and rather settled for being more of a novelty idea than an actually fully-realized artistic film, which is unfortunate.

Krisha is about the titular character (played by Krisha Fairchild) arriving at the home of her sister for Thanksgiving dinner, which she has offered to prepare. Krisha is a drug addict and alcoholic, but her family believes her to have sobered up, which she obviously hasn’t done. Over the course of the day, it becomes increasingly clear that Krisha is far gone, and she is in a very dark place, even if she claims otherwise. Revelations come to the fore throughout this film, and we see the family may not be as welcoming to Krisha as she would’ve hoped.

I wish there was more to say about what this film is about. There really isn’t. Ultimately, Krisha is a film about family, and the tensions that exist within families. Many of us feel similar tensions around the holidays, and behind every seemingly happy family is some sort of problem that members of the family have to deal with. Dysfunctional families are a popular mainstay of cinema, and it is a concept that has never been more raw and brutally shocking and exposing as in Krisha, which takes on the theme of getting beneath the skin of a regular family so beautifully. If there is one towering merit about Krisha, it is that it manages to be realistic and honest, and very frank about the way it is telling the story.

The grindingly brilliant core of this film is Krisha Fairchild, who is a newcomer and the real-life aunt of director Trey Edward Shults. In Krisha, she plays the titular role absolutely briliantly – the entire film is centered on her, and our attention is constantly drawn to her – she becomes so central, even if there are other subplots that do occur throughout. Fairchild is astonishingly good in this film, and the fact that she is a newcomer is astounding. There is nothing quite as wonderful as breakthrough role for a newcomer, and when that breakthrough role is the lead role, written for an actress of a certain age, it isn’t only fantastic, it is essential. Independent cinema is a place where many people who don’t normally get lead roles in mainstream films are able to shine. There is one reason to watch this film, and that is to see the incredible Fairchild do an amazingly heartbreaking job of playing the character, and bringing a sense of complete emotional annihilation to the audience.

Krisha is such a minimalistic film, it borders on being almost non-existent as a narrative. It doesn’t help that the majority of roles in this film were played by non-professionals who were the friends and family of the director. I find that awkwardly charming, that it was a true family affair, and I admire the courage it took to make a film like this, but I also feel like it needed to have a bit more direction in terms of telling the story. I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a dark comedy or a slice-of-life narrative drama or a psychological drama, so it ended up being a mismatched combination of all of them, which isn’t ideal. Yet, it still has its charms and I can’t fault Schults for really just getting down to it and making this film.

Krisha is a good film, but not a great one. It is a film that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but I admire the gusto needed to get this film made, and if anything, this film may help get the talent introduced to us in this film (namely Schults and Fairchild) more work, because Schults is clearly a talent to watch, and Krisha Fairchild is so incredible in this film and gives a truly wonderful performance. Krisha is not a film for everyone, but it is still a very good film. Long live independent cinema, where rookies and newcomers can be given the chance to shine.

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