Chattanooga Film Festival
Substance abuse causes collateral damage. Not only is the alcoholic or drug addict physically and mentally impacted, but the parents, siblings, children and friends of the substance abuser bear the mental and physical scars as well. The damage wrought by substance abuse is an even greater personal violation because the individual causing the situation is someone you love and should be able to trust. Krisha, the debut feature film from writer/director/actor Trey Edward Stults, unfolds in the emotional wake left by the title character who disappeared from the lives of her family ten years ago.
It’s Thanksgiving, and Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) has convinced her sister that she’s sober, that it’s time for her to return to the family unit. Krisha arrives with little fanfare, tentatively embracing family members who greet her with varying degrees of warmth. She receives the coolest reception from her son, Trey (Stults). Although it is never spoken, we sense that Trey bore the brunt of his mother’s addiction. Krisha pitches in on the cooking, but as her attempts to ingratiate herself to her siblings and her son begin to falter, she starts to slowly unravel. A pill or two to steady her nerves gives way to guzzling wine from a bottle.
Krisha is an excellent look at the paradox of substance abuse. The addict needs the support of loved ones to have any chance of succeeding at recovery. Yet each embarrassing, drunken act committed by Krisha, each stumble on the path to sobriety, hurts her family who has already been damaged by her actions for years. As the family becomes more and more alienated, the urge to drink or take pills grows stronger and stronger. Failure begets failure until Krisha’s family may have no more second chances to give.
Krisha is a very personal debut film for Trey Edward Stults. The character is based on his mother and his real life experiences as the child of a substance abuser. Krisha Fairchild, who plays the title character, is Stults’ aunt and happens to be a professional actress. By drawing on her personal pain as the sister of an addict, Fairchild fully commits to the role and brings the character of Krisha to life. The shared life experiences between actress and director gives the film an immediacy and a sense of realism that is never found in your inspirational Hallmark-style films about the perils of substance abuse. This is no after-school special. Krisha is an intense, in-your-face portrait of the devastating long term effects of alcoholism and drug abuse.
Stults’ camera never blinks, but it also never judges. There is no moralizing. The audience feels sorry for Krisha, but our hearts also break for her family. We can tell that she wants to be a better person, that she doesn’t want to hurt her loved ones. But, that lack of intent on her part, doesn’t lessen the damage left in her wake. While the film doesn’t necessarily cover any new ground or blaze a unique dramatic trail, it also never flinches. Krisha packs a heavy punch despite its brief 85-minute running time. You’ll be exhausted when the credits roll, but you’ll also be glad you spent the time with these characters.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.