Krisha could very easily be a cliche-ridden, self indulgent home video fest that prioritizes style over substance. Fortunately, it avoids that description at almost every turn, telling its story with a ferocious intensity and a real understanding of an addict’s world (which is understandable considering the actors themselves were involved with the true story the film is based on). There’s a heart-wrenching personal story under the stylized surface, and it rapidly takes form through Krisha Fairchild’s incredible leading performance; every scene of hers is fraught with conflict and tension and anxiety, her face speaking volumes about what may be concealed and what may be about to burst onto the surface. It’s a difficult role that Fairchild nails perfectly.
The story the film is telling is also complemented by Trey Edward Shults’s unique visual approach. As someone who has had experience under Terrence Malick, the first time director takes certain stylistic touches and applies them to tension and unease instead. He and cinematographer Drew Daniels work to get us into Krisha’s headspace throughout, constantly spinning the camera around and around as Brian McOmber’s Punch-Drunk Love-esque score never lets up in the background. Many images are seen at a slight tilt, aspect ratios are changed a few times, and there are some long takes at the beginning that help establish tension in seemingly mundane scenarios. Each knife slice and word spoken and dog bark is amplified, the cacophony constantly building up throughout the film. You feel elements of psychological thrillers and horror films in Shults’s approach, and his techniques are effective enough not to detract from the story of addiction being told. He simply puts his foot on the pedal and doesn’t lift it up until the pedal is broken. Or, in more appropriate terms, one could say that he puts his turkey in the oven, then turns up the heat and waits for it all to burn.
Photo credits: Krisha, A24