“Krisha” is a character study of a recovering alcoholic making a reentry, sober, into her family for a Thanksgiving meal and an opportunity to reunite with her son after years of estrangement. Anyone who has white trash southern roots knows the humiliation and shame associated with a family member who persists in getting inappropriately loaded at family functions. Variety positioned “Krisha” as a “gripping psychological portrait” and that it is. But there are layers and juxtapositions to the narrative that sets it apart from most movies of this type. There are lots of camera moves and shots that prove disorienting, uncomfortable and claustrophobic. The editing juxtaposes scenes in more of a human recollection model, with pieces and snippets reconstituting as fragments of consciousness, placed here and there, rather than something linear. The writing is interesting and the banter at times is smartly playful. Krisha’s story revolves around her self-worth and the pressure for her to receive her family’s acceptance.
There’s a critical scene where Krisha is disappointed with her interaction with her son and then has an upbraiding from her sister’s husband. She quietly slips off to chug a bottle of wine in the bathroom. The cinematic discomfort at this point turns medicated slow motion with her laudanum-spun return to the kitchen, where she continues her pretense to being sober and in control. This all turns to mayhem when the turkey incident takes place. It becomes obvious that all is lost when the first dribbles of turkey juice hits the floor for Krisha and her credibility with the family will be shattered.
From the slow motion turkey catastrophe, the story descends into greater madness as it returns to more of a real-time experience, where torrents of rage and pent-up feelings are frankly expressed, in the most discomforting way, by her sister and various family members in the kitchen and around the Thanksgiving table. As director Trey Edward Shults put it in the AFI FEST Q&A, “The story become more and more hallucinatory.” The implication revolves around her drunken perception of reality and her feelings of suppressed rage and self loathing supplants whatever may have really taken place. “Krisha” is an original piece of cinema that uses a fresh and disturbing methods of storytelling. “Krisha” takes a close look at a personal meltdown around something as simple and familiar as a Thanksgiving dinner to great effect, and it’s worth a watch with its unique perspective and aesthetic choices.