“Krisha” makes its Cannes premiere in the Critics’ Week program, which is designed to steer attention toward promising discoveries and first-time filmmakers.
Shults’ debut is also a claustrophobic horror movie that unfolds over one hot, sweaty Thanksgiving Day in Florida, where Krisha (played by the director’s real-life aunt Krisha Fairchild, a psychologist), a painkiller-addled, ex-alcoholic teetering on the edge of the wagon, reunites with her estranged and leery family members for the first time in years.
Shults’ decision to shoot the film with his own relatives — and in nine days — may feel like a stunt. He even casts his 90-year-old grandmother. But this is a strong first film, and his focused direction does yield some breakout performances, including his own turn as Krisha’s disappointed son. The film’s most mesmerizing scene is a revolving long take that whirls round the kitchen, in slow motion, to Nina Simone’s “Just in Time” (the same version that closes Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset”) as Krisha spirals into a devastating tizzy that totally wrecks the holiday meal.
Fairchild, who bravely throws herself into this challenging role, is not quite Gena Rowlands. But fans of Cassavetes’ unhinged blond bombshell will enjoy how the rookie actress dramatically juggles her character’s highs and lows on her way to rock bottom.
“Krisha” is currently seeking US distribution. Cannes is often where these things happen. Below, watch the trailer for the original short that inspired the film.