One of the benefits of awards season is getting to catch up on smaller films that floated through theaters without much fanfare. Krisha is one such flick; it played for a few weeks but never hit more than 26 theaters at a time, grossing just under $145,000 in its short run. But it's picking up some awards season buzz, and for good reason: The debut feature from Trey Edward Shults is among most engrossing 80-or-so minutes you'll see all year.
We open with Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) trying to find her family's home for Thanksgiving. She parks in the street and wanders to the neighbors' house, realizing after she rings the doorbell that they're one number over. The opening is shot in one long take. The technique, sometimes abused by cinematic showoffs, is not flashily done or overly complex in Krisha—we simply glide behind and beside the 60-something woman as she says hello to the family she clearly hasn't seen in quite some time. But it's a thematically important sequence: we can see how she has to gather her strength before she goes in, how she mutters curses to herself and then turns on a facsimile of charm when the door swings open. By keeping the camera on her and not cutting away, we quickly come to understand that Krisha is either a woman who is either carefully in control or dangerously close to spinning out of it; the next hour-plus will reveal which.
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A friend described Krisha as "a drama shot like a horror film," and that feels about right; without spoiling too much, I'll just say that the movie—which is set on Thanksgiving and takes place throughout the day—will likely make you feel fortunate for your own family's foibles, regardless of your issues. Krisha is in some ways both protagonist and antagonist; you feel pity for her but can understand that the mess she has made of her life is her own fault. She is seen sympathetically, at times, nervously smiling or swallowing a pill to cope with the stress. Other shots are composed to make her look like a deranged axe-murderer-in-waiting, as when her face is pressed up against the family's stainless steel fridge, a half-smile reflecting into an almost-inhuman grin as she watches the chaos unfold around her.
Tightly shot and edited (Shults should get some real credit for the way he stitched this film together), you can stream Krisha now for free if you have an Amazon Prime subscription (or for $5 if you don't). Do yourself a favor and check it out; you won't be sorry.