After charming SXSW and the Independent Spirits, “Krisha” opens in Houston this weekend, the work of dazzling new talent Trey Edward Shults. Having interned under famed, thoughtful director Terence Malick (including the master’s exquisite “The Tree of Life”), the apprentice now cuts his own path of astute observation and powerhouse delivery.
Here we meet Krisha, a woman struggling with alcohol and drug addiction having long burned the bridges of goodwill with her family, rendering them cinders of wariness. Now having earned a cautious return thanks to a period of sobriety, she attends family Thanksgiving with hopes of reconciliation… and perhaps more baggage than she can carry.
Whenever it’s said “the direction could have been stronger,” here is what is meant. Simply stunning. Shults brings the poetry of a Malick moment to the everyday environs of a family home, choreographing extended sequences that lean into daily life and at one point masterfully extending three seconds into fifteen that foreshadow the years of consequence ahead (I actually cupped both hands over my mouth and murmured “No, no, no no no no no”).
Not only does he direct “Krisha” with a creative eye the envy of many much older and far more experienced, Shults also wrote the script and stars as the estranged son of the titular character. A true family affair employing his actual relatives as cast and filming entirely in their home (over the course of a mere nine days, no less), Shults created Krisha from the combined figures of several off-screen family members who suffered with addiction, and renders the fallout with remarkable precision. Real Aunt Krisha brings her professional actor’s chops to the nuance necessary to capturing the fictional Krisha’s fragility and bitterness, while mom Robyn Fairchild brings her professional mental health counselor experience to her role as Krisha’s emotionally rent sister.
Under Shults’ superb execution, “Krisha” joins the rarefied few in cinema which fully capture the wreckage of addiction as it dismantles every life it touches, ravaging both the life of the person gripped and those in their field of gravity. Below are its campadrés, all of which enlighten us to the plight with clear-eyed compassion, and light the way toward recovery and the new history it can craft.
“Krisha” opens in Houston on March 25, 2015 at the Sundance Cinema; check IMDb or your local listings for showtimes. The three titles below are all available as of this writing via Netflix and Amazon; check your other preferred channel(s) for availability.
Screened March 21, 2015 via studio screener.
Anne Hathaway and Anne Marie DeWitt face down drugs in ‘Rachel Getting Married’
Hathaway landed an Oscar nomination with this one, and it drew Debra Winger back from her self-imposed retirement from Hollywood – both for good reason.Bit off a whole lot, but chewed most of it, and communicates the struggle with unflinching honesty and compassion.
Story: (Drama) Portrait of a family wedding at which one member has received a three-day pass from rehab in order to attend.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger, Anna Deavere Smith, Tunde Adebimpe
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
4/5 Stars | Themes: Addiction and Recovery, Awe, Death and Dying, Forgiveness, Loss, Loyalty, Mercy, Person vs. Person, Person vs. Self, Reconciliation
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Minnie Driver face down gambling in ‘Owning Mahowny’
If you’ve ever wondered how the addict’s mind reasons and the task faced in forging a new perspective, here you’ll find your answer. All the more tragic given Hoffman’s 2014 death by drug overdose.
Story: (Drama, Character Study) Fact-based story of a Canadian bank manager with a compulsive gambling problem who came into access of over $10M in assets, resulting in what is now known in Atlantic City as the unprecedented “Dan Mahowny Day”.
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt
Directed by: Richard Kwietniowski
5/5 Stars | Rated R | 105 min. | Themes: Addiction and Recovery, Awe, Duty, Honesty, Hubris, Legacy, Person vs. Self
Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia face down alcohol in ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’
Behold, the wonders known as Tina Majorino and Mae Whitman, mere tots here and knocking us over with every scene they’re in (a Herculean task for Majorino). Here we see “how it happens” and how we can miss it, underestimate it, and come back from it (watch for some absolutely elegant boundary-setting from Lauren Tom, and Philip Seymour Hoffman before he became Philip. Seymour. Hoffman.).
Story: (Drama, Character Study) Superb portrait of a couple, and family, in turmoil over the wife’s alcoholism, and struggling to find its way back to the light as they embrace recovery.
Starring: Andy Garcia, Meg Ryan, Tina Majorino, Mae Whitman, Ellen Burstyn, Lauren Tom, Eugene Roche, Philip Seymour Hoffman, LaTanya Richardson, Gail Strickland
Directed by: Luis Mandoki
4/5 Stars | Rated R | 126 min. | Themes: Addiction and Recovery, Balance, Boundaries, Hope, Love and Attachment, Mercy, Person vs. Self, Restoration, Wisdom
Want more? Check out “Warrior” and “The Country Girl”!