In “Krisha,” director/writer/actor/editor/producer Trey Edward Shults’ deeply emotional debut feature, his eponymous lead character, a woman long unmoored, is played by his aunt (Krisha Fairchild), giving a potent performance, raw and real, anchoring the film. (So affecting and authentic is Fairchild’s work, that some festival goers, pleased to see her looking quite well at screenings, have been surprised to learn she’s a professional actor. “Krisha” is a composite of Shults’ family members, but none of the pieces come from Krisha.)
After a 10-year absence, Krisha appears at her sister Robyn (Shults’ mother Robyn Fairchild) and family’s American dream house (great room, large open kitchen with de rigueur stainless steel appliances) on Thanksgiving morning. She’s voluble and on edge but working hard to appear as flowy as her hippie outfit. Hiding that she’s still suffering with substance abuse issues, Krisha offers that she’s been “working on finding the peaceful person inside me.” But her attempts to reintegrate into her complicated family (and a special need to get close to her nephew Trey–played by the filmmaker), claiming her “place at the table,” are largely met with suspicion. An incident with the large holiday turkey provokes a outsized response that seems to be rooted in family history.
Shifts of tone (naturalistic, melodrama, thriller–reflecting Krisha’s increasingly fractured reality), are expertly enhanced by increasingly dramatic cinematography and sound design, and lead to a devastating confrontation.
Shults worked with a cast mostly of non-professional actors (many of whom are friends and family members). He says, “We got amazing stuff that informed the whole movie by being open and going with the flow. There are things in “Krisha” I could never have thought of myself that all these people brought to it. It’s a wonderful way of working.”
“Krisha” (which won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival and the John Cassavetes Award at the recent Independent Spirits) will open on Friday, March 18 at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and in select cities. A Q&A with Trey Edward Shults will follow both the 7:05 pm show on Friday and the 4:30 pm show on Saturday, Mach 19, and he will intro Saturday’s 7:50 pm show.