Writer/director Trey Edward Shults introduces his title character (Krisha Fairchild) with her skirt trailing from the closed door as she drives her pickup truck. For the next 80 minutes, he continues that kind of attention to detail—with magnificent filmmaking skill—in his intricate character study. The simple story takes place at a Thanksgiving family gathering, where black-sheep Krisha—a 60-something recovering alcoholic—is trying to prove that she’s gotten her act together, including to the estranged son (played by Shults) she barely knows. It could have felt gimmicky that Shults uses his own family—including Fairchild, his real-life aunt—but Krisha never feels like some surrogate airing of dirty laundry. From the extended opening tracking shot through the freewheeling chronology that follows, and especially through a stunning use of sound design, Shults repeatedly puts us inside the head of a woman who can’t completely cope with the environment she finds herself in, and for whom self-medicating simply allows the world finally to slow down. Fairchild’s wrenching performance anchors one of the great film portraits of an addict, and a well-intentioned family with no clue how to help her.
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