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Movie review: Texas film ‘Krisha’

Krisha Fairchild in Krisha
Krisha Fairchild in Krisha A24

Shot for next to nothing at the Houston home of the director’s mom, Krisha is a Texas film that has taken the indie world by storm.

Lauded at a variety of film festivals and ceremonies — including the Independent Spirit Awards, where it won the John Cassavettes Award, and the 2015 South by Southwest film festival, where it took both the Audience and Grand Jury honors — Krisha is an intense family drama from filmmaker/writer/actor Trey Edward Shults that showcases a talent on the rise.

That it’s his debut film makes it even more impressive.

The first image on the screen is the face of Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), a woman in her 60s who wears her age like a badge of honor and survival. She’s on her way to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving, to spend time with the family — including her 20-something son, Trey (Shults) — from whom she has been estranged for years.

There’s awkward cordiality and forced smiles all around at first, especially from Trey. Then, slowly, Shults — who also wrote the script — ramps up the unease until all the buried grievances erupt like a dormant volcano suddenly bursting to life.

What’s most remarkable is that all of this is ripped from Shults’ life.

The incident is based on a tumultuous family reunion from a few years back. Fairchild is Shults’ aunt, and his mother plays Krisha’s sister, Robyn.

Much of the rest of the cast includes family members and friends. That he could persuade them to take part in this fictionalized take on their personal troubles gives Krisha a seismic jolt of realism.

Yet any viewer would be hard-pressed to pick out any of them as amateurs. Shults coaxes strong performances from everyone, especially Fairchild, who inhabits Krisha with the force of a tornado.

Family dinners don’t get much more destructive than this.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas; Angelika Plano

Krisha

  1/2 (out of five)

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Cast: Krisha Fairchild, Trey Edward Shults, Robyn Fairchild

Rated: R (strong language, substance abuse, sexual content)

Running time: 83 min.

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