Movie Review: “Krisha”Documents a Life Undone

Watching Krisha is like watching an artistically rendered reality television show gone off the rails. The remarkable acting talent of Krisha Fairchild, matched with the deft direction of debut filmmaker Trey Edward Shults, makes for an epic film going experience. Seeing this film is like seeing a film by Terrence Malik or Ingmar Bergman for the first time. It can be difficult to say that you “enjoy” it because of the rawness of the reality exposed, and yet these films are made for art’s sake, not for commercial consumption.

The plot of Krisha can be plainly described as the story of a woman who struggles with multiple addictions returning home for the first time in years. Krisha’s son, Trey, now lives with her sister. Shults (the director and writer of the film) plays Trey and Shults’ real mother plays the Aunt that he now lives with. Many of the other performers in the film are family members or close friends of Shults, and several have never performed before. Is it because they have real bonds, and  some have struggled with substance addictions before, that the performances are so gripping?

One explosive dinner table scene could be watched multiple times as each performer’s body language, expressions and reactions tell the truth of the moment in their own way. The pain, frustration and fear are palatable and heart breaking.


The performance that Shults pries from his mother, Robyn, is exceptional. She plays Shults’ aunt, who has welcomed her sister back into her life. She believes that her sister has finally cleaned up and is ready to welcome her back into their world. She pleads with her after a huge relapse moment, and it is raw and gut wrenching. There are award-winning actors who, through the course of  a film, can’t present the level of depth and honesty that she divulges in mere minutes.

Bill Wise is another welcome addition to the cast. An experienced actor, he delicately adds humor and wisdom. His character is hesitant to allow Krisha back into the family fold. He alertly watches her actions, ready to protect his immediate family before she can cause too much damage.

The film is shot in Shults’ family home and the effect is a realness that can’t be matched by even the best set designer. Throw blankets, yard shape, dishes that are used everyday and dogs that meander through at unexpected times reflect our genuine experiences.

I must return to Krisha. The film would be nothing without this complex character examination and multi-faceted performance. The film opens and closes with a tight shot on her face and the story told in her eyes, lips and lines is an art in itself. Krisha Fairchild the actress, dives into this role. Most of us can relate to her arrival at this well maintained home, swelling with love and even though by word and gesture she is welcomed with open arms, it is impossible for her to feel comfortable there. She struggles to understand the lives that she is now witnessing. The boys who arm wrestle and banter. The new mother with her tiny baby, their life rife with possibility. How does one just walk into this group and join in?

One of my favorite scenes of the film is when Krisha is getting ready to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the family. She has spent a large portion of her day preparing the dinner and trying to stay calm. She gives herself this time to shower, wear red lipstick, a red dress. She feels beautiful and powerful. Cheers to the writer/director for this scene as well. It’s a rarity that a woman of a certain age and size is given the right to look and feel beautiful. Without the addition of this scene we would have been shorted the complexity and confidence that lives within Krisha. This must be the very same pride and confidence that drew her into a romantic love, for which she abandoned her son.

This is not a film for all viewers and it is not a film for a light Saturday night romp. It is film as art and I believe that this will be the first film by a very important American talent.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writer: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Krisha Fairchild, Robyn Fairchild, Bill Wise, Trey Edward Shults
Runtime: 83 minutes
Release date: Varied- Now playing in Houston
MPAA rating: R


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