Movie review of “Krisha”: The debut feature by Trey Edward Shults introduces him as a promising if extreme director of behavior and observation, resulting in a film as artificial as it is interesting. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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The opening scene in writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ ambitious but taxing “Krisha” — winner of a Grand Jury Award at last year’s South by Southwest film festival — simply but masterfully hints that the titular character is a bit of a train wreck.

Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), an overage hippie in her 60s with barely disguised addictions to booze and pills, parks her vehicle on a suburban street, removes her wheeled suitcase and starts walking. Somehow the slapping of her sandals and coarse rolling of luggage wheels on the pavement telegraph an uncertain control in the character. When Krisha knocks on the door of the wrong house before finding the right one (her sister’s), her simple mistake magnifies a sense of instability.

The reason is in the intensity of Shults’ observations. One can tell right away “Krisha” is not going to rely on narrative exposition as much as the way things are seen and heard, through unbroken shots, subjective angles, telling behaviors, contrasts and loads of subtext in trivial conversations.

Movie Review ★★½  

Krisha,’ with Krisha Fairchild, Robyn Fairchild, Bill Wise, Trey Edward Shults. Written and directed by Shults. 82 minutes. Rated R for language, substance abuse. Sundance Cinemas (21+).

That’s how Shults demonstrates, when the mood on Thanksgiving Day shifts from jovial to cautious because Krisha enters a room, that there is unhappy history here. Or when 20-something nephew Trey (Shults) sits in silent misery while Krisha talks to him.

Shults shot “Krisha” in his parents’ house and cast himself and family members, including veteran actress Fairchild, his aunt. Shults’ influences, especially John Cassavetes, are notable and he knows how to avoid pages of dialogue to make a point.

But he also goes to extremes to cut narrative corners and accomplish everything with a close-up or tracking camera or ridiculous music. For all its strengths, “Krisha” can also be self-indulgent and artificial.