KRISHA is a most unique family drama, considering the fact that it was inspired by a combination of The Shining, Punch Drunk Love, and Women Under the Influence…and stars members of director Trey Shultz’s own family. And yet somehow all of these elements blend together to form a feature film that, although a little odd, is undoubtedly interesting.
Based on Shultz’s 2014 short film of the same name, the movie revolves around one Thanksgiving Day, when family outcast Krisha (Shultz’s real aunt Krisha Fairchild) turns up at her sister’s doorstep. Haggard, scattered, and a little unraveled, Krisha is immediately recognizable as a woman who has lived a long and troubled life, and her family is hesitant to welcome her. As it turns out, she is the estranged mother of Trey (played by Trey Shultz, if you couldn’t guess), whose resentment is tangible.
Krisha’s character, brought to life through Krisha Fairchild’s fabulous skill, is colored with dark complexity and desperation, so eager to be a part of her son’s life again and yet so constantly rejected by him and her loved ones. She is an imperfect woman struggling to “become a better human being”, but is saddled with the flaws of any individual; in some moments, she is downright weak-minded. Yet the movie does well to sympathize with her situation, using angles that glimpse into the interactions of her nephews and cousins and sisters at a delicate distance- like a stranger observing the scene, but excluded from the intimacy.
There are wonderful moments of visually dynamic shots sprinkled through out KRISHA, but the camerawork comes very close to plagiarizing the style of the films that inspired it; some scenes echo loudly of Kubrick’s tense close-ups, or PTA’s fluid, uncut Steadicam language. Sometimes the score gets a little experimental, distracting from the action on screen. But despite these minor tweaks, at its core, Shultz manages to create a raw and compelling story.
“I tried to make something unique, personal, and honest,” Shultz explained, “a movie that reflects [Krisha’s] mental state and goes on the journey with her.”
One audience member after the screening confidently stated that Meryl Streep couldn’t have been a better Krisha, summoning a round of applause. Fairchild isn’t the only actor to be credited, though, with Shultz’s mother giving a believable and moving performance as well. There is a mixture of Shultz’s family, friends, and actors making up the family on screen, but all slip into their roles so naturally that the action and dialogue (a lot of which was improvised) come across as totally realistic.
Overall KRISHA was an intense and bold drama, fresh and suspenseful as it depicts the horrors of a woman haunted by personal demons, as well as the pain of family get-togethers.