Krisha (Dir. Trey Edward Shults) is a symphony of anxiety and paranoia, told subjectively and flowing concurrently with the title character’s feelings and emotions. A classic story of an estranged family member reuniting at the holidays – but this movie proves right from the start it will be anything but classic. Each act is introduced with an intense, drawn out close up on Krisha’s face, showing the audience exactly who we’re following and feeling.
An ageing woman with flowing clothes and wavy grey hair, Krisha is an ‘abandoneer’ who has returned to her family in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to celebrate and make amends.
However, it seems she’s not up to the task of cooking the turkey like she wanted, and she frequently takes breaks to stare hard in the mirror or to smoke outside with her mordant BIL. She desperately tries to reconnect with her son, and their painful, cringe evoking conversation simply cements how he is too hurt to repair the damage, and she clearly doesn’t know him well enough to prove she cares for him.
After this conversation and others in the film, she is shown through windows or obscured by doors, caged off from everyone while the rest of the family enjoys board games and arm wrestles in the wide open spaces downstairs. She continues to serve up a rotten feast as the day goes on, and here is where the editing shines through. The rapid cutting between loving family faces and the dismemberment of a raw turkey evokes a displaced revulsion, akin to the feeling of breaking ties with a once loved family member.
Occasional but well placed 360 camera movements nauseate and create an atmosphere of dizzying anxiety; coupled with the show-stealing score, these effects cultivate Krisha’s anxiety and general inability to handle, and give stark clarity to her inner feelings. Indeed, when she finally relapses and chugs a bottle of wine before definitively ruining the family dinner (dropping the turkey), it is the only time the score changes from clashing strings and keys to upbeat, flowy jazz.
But not for long.
Her son is frequently present in her shots while she speaks to others, out of focus and in the background but nevertheless emphasising how much she feels his presence, and wishes he was at the forefront rather than avoiding her. When her sister discovers the wine bottle and tearfully questions her (a truly heart-breaking performance through and through from Robyn Fairchild) her son moves from fuzzy to clear while Krisha denies ownership – visually this seems to cement his decision to declare later that he is no longer hers and to leave him alone forever.
Fish eye lenses, dizzying camerawork and quick unforgiving editing all combine spectacularly to create the feeling of total messiness and disgust that is Krisha’s attempt at reconciliation. The last act ends with her failing wildly, smashing plates and screaming at everyone, and it’s revealed that Richard, who she calls (with no answer) nonstop, is yet another person she had abandoned to come here. Her brother in law is right – she is indeed ‘heartbreak incarnate’ and her wake of destruction, physically and emotionally leaves everyone devastated.
A chilling, painful movie but so captivating because of its harsh, intense and righteous truth: family is a privilege, not a right and Krisha has not earned her dues.
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