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Saturday, June 20, 2015

BAMcinémaFest Review: KRISHA

Courtesy of A24
BAMcinémaFest Review
2015, 83 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

It's a bit of a miracle that Krisha was made. Shot in 9 days on a micro-budget and starring first-time feature director Trey Edward Shults and his own family and friends, this could easily have been a disaster. But it wasn't. It was far from it. Premiering the day before the 2015 SXSW awards ceremony, Krisha was shown at the last minute and ended up winning both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, only to have Shults be picked up for a two-picture deal by A24 when the film was shown at Cannes. While this all may seem outrageous, it's not hard to see why A24, audiences, and the SXSW jury all went crazy for this film. It's an astonishingly confident, cinematic, yet disturbing and intimate drama about a woman, Krisha (Krisha Fairchild, Shults' aunt), who comes to her family's Thanksgiving dinner, causing tensions to rise and Krisha to become unnerved.

With Krisha, Shults has created something new: an emotionally raw, realistic character study told in a surreal, cinematic manner, like Cassavettes by way of Paul Thomas Anderson. The first shot of Krisha is an uncomfortable, yet gorgeous close-up of Krisha's face. Following that is where the film's story really begins. The first scene or two is told in one extremely long (likely 10-minute) take that follows Krisha from her car to the inside of her family's house. Drew Daniels' cinematography is fluid and immaculately-framed, yet it never calls attention to itself. Daniels knows exactly where to point the camera to maximize the emotional impact of the scene, and Shults' directorial control is amazing. Even in the film's latter portion when reality is questioned, Shults still retains control over the film, never letting it fall apart.

All that Shults has created though is centered around Krisha Fairchild's performance, which is unforgettable. Natural and completely unnerving, Fairchild embodies Krisha, creating wonderful idiosyncrasies and ticks that make Krisha an unstable, unpredictable character  It takes a special kind of actor to lead a film like this where the film's impact rises and falls on that actor's performance, and Fairchild is that kind of actor, rising to the challenge, commanding every second that she's onscreen. 

Overall, Krisha is a provocative, daring debut from Trey Edward Shults that will impress filmgoers with a love of dark family drama. While the film should be slightly longer to allow the impact of the powerful climax to land harder, the film is nonetheless quite an achievement and is the second time in three years that the SXSW winner has been stronger than the Sundance winner (the other instance being in 2013 when Short Term 12, a small masterpiece, won SXSW and the still-powerful Fruitvale Station won Sundance).


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