The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Krisha, the debut feature from writer/director Trey Edward Shults, opens and closes with a closeup of the title character, a troubled older woman. The way we perceive her face at the end is radically different from how we perceive it at the beginning. Over the course of 83 tense minutes, we watch this woman completely unravel, impacting everyone around her in the process. While perhaps not always easy to watch, Krisha – which Shults cast with family and friends – is nonetheless a riveting story about the way one dysfunctional member can get a whole clan swirled up in their drama.

Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) has been estranged from her family for a decade. She shows up for Thanksgiving dinner at her sister's house and is met with a variety of reactions. Some are glad to see her; others, like aspiring filmmaker Trey (Shults), are much more guarded. Krisha intends to convince everyone that she's okay, when really she isn't. A few of the demons that apparently drove her from the family – drinking and pill popping – are still in full force, just slightly hidden. When she doesn't get the unequivocally positive reception she hopes for, Krisha begins to come apart at the seams. Attempts to ingratiate herself into the festivities fall flat. She's there but not there, and the pain of realizing most of her family members have not fully forgiven her sins creates a personal crisis.

Krisha has almost eerie undertones as it depicts the central character struggling to hold all her worst impulses in check. In a powerhouse performance, Fairchild shows how Krisha's demons not only affect her view of the world around her but also drive her to act in impulsive, distorted, or even subconsciously malicious ways. There is substantial irony in the fact that she's trying hard to “make nice” with her family, only to inadvertently cause even more pain and hurt. Perhaps the key scene in the film comes when she attempts to reconcile with Trey, who won't even look at her as they speak. She virtually demands his forgiveness, and when he doesn't offer it, the dark side of her personality starts eating her up from the inside. Krisha is a devastating portrait of a woman who wants to rush along the healing process, only to learn the hard way that healing takes time, if it ever comes at all.

Shults uses a number of filmmaking techniques to take us deep into the character's psyche. At times, the movie skips around and back again. We see part of one conversation Krisha has with a family member before cutting to her doing something completely unrelated, then cutting back again to the conversation at a different point. This helps convey the disjointedness of her mindset and the way she feels disconnected from everyone around her. Even more effective is the strategic use of multiple aspect ratios. A couple intimate moments with Krisha are shot in the square 1.33:1 ratio. That opens up to a standard 1.85:1 ratio for most of the movie, save for an extended breakdown sequence which is shot in the wide 2.35:1 ratio to emphasize the scope and magnitude of Krisha's crumbling. These are creative, experimental techniques that Shults pulls off brilliantly. Rather than seeming show-offish, they legitimately add to our understanding of the film's themes.

Krisha does not tell a warm-fuzzy story of redemption. In fact, it ends with some events that, if anything, suggest the character still has a long way to go if she ever really wants to make amends. Krisha is so real and so raw that it sometimes hurts a little bit to watch it. And watch it we do, because it's rare to find a picture willing to be so honest about the way people want those they've hurt to rush past the pain and the betrayal so that their own guilty consciences can be relieved. There is great meaning in this story.

Trey Edward Shults has made a stunning debut feature that instantly marks him as one of the most promising new filmmakers on the scene. Krisha is bold and powerful. This Great American Indie will knock you on your ass in the best possible way.

( out of four)

Krisha is rated R for language, substance abuse and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 23 minutes.

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