I was frightened by the opening shot of Krisa. The camera holds on the tense, tightly clenched face of our main character, played by Krisha Fairchild, as tears peak out from the corners of her eyes. Except this is not a horror film by any means, but it will shake you. This is a movie that pokes a nerve in my life personally, as it focuses on a woman returning to a family thanksgiving after a stint in rehab to recover from her addiction to alcohol. In his first feature film, director Trey Edward Shults displays the confidence of a seasoned veteran. He portrays Krisha's madness to near perfection, using the camera to circle the rooms, and make everyone uncomfortable. Krisha is such an honest film, it feels like a documentary.

Addiction has been captured many times before in the medium of cinema. It is an often prevalent topic that audiences can relate to and it only makes sense that Krisa won the Cassavetes Award at the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards. There are many comparisons that can be made to the directors groundbreaking film- A Woman Under the Influence. Where Gena Rowlands submerged into her role and challenged audiences to open their eyes to mental health, here Shults walks us into the home of a family losing someone to a debilitating condition.

Almost all of the actors are family members related to Shults and have zero acting experience or are making their big screen debut. This allows the narrative to feel authentic in the conversations that Krisha has, while also revealing its flaws. The tension is ever present though, especially in Krisha's efforts to talk with her estranged son Trey (played also by Shults) or when she sits with the tactless uncle Doyle (Bill Wise), who has an air of disdain for the BS that came prior to Krisha's recovery. With a spine tingling score by Brian McOmber, at any moment the scale could tip. The only hope is for awkwardness to pass and maybe Krisha can make it to one more day of sobriety.

I eluded earlier that a movie like this pokes a nerve of mine personally. Even though I have talked about my alcholism in reviews before, when I watch a film like Krisha, it stirs a powerful wave of emotions inside me. It has a unique ability to capture the main character feeling lost and having all eyes on her. She is surrounded by multiple family members, the cinematography by Drew Daniels constantly spins around the dinner table, and gets up close when Krisha argues in the bathroom with her sister Robyn. The scene is heartbreaking, as we are witness to the crumbling sister bond they once shared. This is as honest of a telling of family dysfunction since Robert Redford's Ordinary People.

Shults weaves the film to it's end, but I dare not reveal anymore. Krisa is a deeply unnerving, experience of cinema. This is independent filmmaking at its best and the performance from Krisha Fairchild will sit with me for a long time. She effortlessly portrays a character that is sincerely flawed, carrying the emotional weight in every scene. I worry about people like Krisha. They are not given second chances after the bridges they burn. The only hope is that they find a way to survive and live another day.

3 ½ Stars

Written By: Leo Brady