Director: Ray McKinnon
Screenwriters: Ray McKinnon

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Billy Bob Thornton plays Joe, who, while being chased by the law, plunged the family car off the road with his beautiful wife Chrystal and their young son inside. Sixteen years pass, and a damaged Joe returns from prison seeking something he lost on that night, but which no longer exists. The only thing that can fill the emptiness is the hardest to ask for—his own redemption.

Writer/director Ray McKinnon costars as Snake, a gnarly, crank-smoking drug lord and Joe's nemesis, playing opposite Thornton's brilliantly detailed repression perfectly. Lisa Blount is sensational as Chrystal, working within the confines of a body racked with pain, a constant reminder of the broken neck she suffered in the crash. Her eyes serve as windows to her unearthly goodness but also reveal flickers of her emotional suffering. The filmmaking is top notch from performances to cinematography, especially a fistfight that is as beautifully raw as it is real.

Steeped in the southern miasma of regional music and smoky barbecue, Chrystal doesn't need to pull cinematic tricks, but McKinnon pulls no punches either. In its quietest moments, Chrystal is powerful and emotional. The highest praise that can be given Chrystal is that, time after time, it contains scenes that are unthinkable, yet completely believable.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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