It received the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award in the narrative feature competition at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival. It was selected to compete in the International Critics' Week section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The film was released in a limited release on March 18, 2016, by A24.
Krisha is a woman in her 60s. A troubled person with a history of addiction, she has been estranged from her family for many years. Her son was raised by her sister, Robyn. The film opens with a shot only of Krisha's face as she begins to cry.
Krisha has recently told her relatives that she is now reformed and sober, and that she wants to visit on Thanksgiving Day and cook dinner for the whole extended family. Krisha arrives at her sister Robyn's large house, where many family members are gathered, and greets them all warmly. After unpacking her suitcase, she starts to prepare a huge turkey for roasting, we see glimpses of the other family members who all have their own lives and little problems.
While he plays games with the rest of the family, Krisha asks her son, Trey, to come with her to catch up. He goes and she attempts to reconcile with him. We learn that she has missed large parts of his life, but she appears to genuinely want to be a part of his life again. When he remains defensive, refusing even to look at her, she attempts to coax a reaction out of him. He resists and leaves.
As time goes by, it becomes clear that some of the family members believe Krisha has turned her life around. But some of the older members, including her brother-in-law, Doyle, remain sceptical and deride her assurances that she is sober. On Thanksgiving morning, Krisha's elderly mother arrives and is introduced to the newer members of the family. Although she is forgetful, she remembers each of the family members by name. But when Krisha greets her, her mother becomes confused and seems unable to remember her clearly, upsetting Krisha further.
As the day progresses and she sees her son's closeness to her sister's family, Krisha starts to secretly return to her bathroom to abuse alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs in an attempt to cope. When it is time to remove the roasted turkey from the oven, she is drunk and out-of-control. She spills the roasting tray and the perfectly roasted turkey lands heavily on the kitchen floor. Most of the family is horrified and tries to help Krisha up from the floor and salvage the meal. Doyle only looks on and laughs.
Krisha sobers up, watching home videos Robyn has of Trey as a child. Waking from a stupor, she rings her boyfriend and leaves him a furious voicemail, telling him that she relied on him for support and that he abandoned her when she needed him. She then goes downstairs to find the rest of the family enjoying a toned-down version of Thanksgiving dinner without her. Robyn refuses to allow her to join the table and takes her out of the room. Robyn laments the fact that Krisha lied about her sobriety, telling Krisha that she defended her when other members of the family didn't want to invite her at all. In the final scene, we see Krisha interrupting dinner once again, she demands that her son tell her he loves her. When Robyn asks her to leave, the argument escalates and becomes violent. The final shot mirrors the first, we see pain reflected in Krisha's face.
The film is based on a short film of the same name which also starred Fairchild in the titular role of Krisha. Many of the film's cast are relatives of Shults, including Krisha Fairchild who is Shults' aunt, his mother and grandmother, and other actors being friends of Shults. Bill Wise and Chris Doubek were the only non-relatives or friends cast in the film. A Kickstarter.com campaign was created to fund the film. A $10,000 goal was set, which ended on July 20, 2014, with a total of $14,260 from 64 backers.
Principal photography began on August 2, 2014, and concluded on August 10, 2014. The film was shot over the course of nine days, and was filmed at Shults' parents' house.
The film had its world premiere on March 16, 2015 at South by Southwest. The film had its international premiere and went onto screen at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2015. Shortly after, A24 acquired U.S distribution rights to the film. The film also went onto screen at the London Film Festival on October 14, 2015. and the AFI Fest on November 7, 2015. The film was released in a limited release on March 18, 2016.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97% based on 69 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Raw, bracingly honest, and refreshingly unconventional, Krisha wrings fresh -- and occasionally uncomfortable -- truths from a seemingly familiar premise." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 87 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a positive review, considering "its stylistic experimentation anchored by a subtly wounding performance from Krisha Fairchild in the eponymous lead role. More festival berths await, and while commercial prospects look decidedly modest, critical support should spur select arthouse bookings and discerning-viewer interest ahead of VOD play." Sherri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review writing: "The story will eventually draw the viewer outside Krisha’s perspective, but the beauty of the film is that its compassion deepens along with its very real sense of horror — compassion not just for Krisha but for those who still love her or have given up on trying".