Humanity in trouble
Michael Shannon brilliantly plays sensitive everyman Curtis LaForche. Curtis is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. In an age of uncertainty, his dark night of the soul feels universal.
Suspenseful and exciting from start to finish, Take Shelter portends the end. Depending on how you see, it will sweep you away with dread or faith. References to “the economy” and “fresh motor oil” build foreboding.
A construction foreman in northern Ohio, tormented Curtis hides his condition from his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain). He seeks help from a doctor and a counselor, trying to suppress his visions.
Shannon (Revolutionary Road; Bug) surrenders onscreen. Gangly, enigmatic and tortured, he remains a loving husband and devoted father to a hearing impaired child Hannah (Tova Stewart, sweetly perceptive).
Curtis wants to save his family at any cost. After visiting his mother (Kathy Baker), who’s institutionalized with paranoid schizophrenia, the quiet man understands that his curse is a gift.
Saving his family
March in step, Curtis’ best friend Dewart (Shea Whigham) and his brother Kyle (Ray McKinnon) tell him. Instead, he secures a home improvement loan to build an elaborate storm shelter.
Curtis risks everything – home, family, and the health insurance needed for Hannah’s cochlear implant.
Samantha takes refuge in family, friends and community. Love grounds and guides her. She sells her embroidery at tag sales to finance the family’s annual vacation.
Prolific Chastain (The Debt; The Tree of Life; The Help) creates yet another excellent character here in her recent spree of big screen roles. Samantha struggles to understand and stay with Curtis.
Survival of the fittest
Natural disaster never looked so breathtaking. Adam Stone uses widescreen photography to see beauty in menace. Flocks of starlings, clouds and twin tornadoes loom. Real and impending catastrophes are colored by mystery and mental illness.
Nichols (Shotgun Stories) captures inner and outer worlds with authority and immediacy. His work is reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s, but more ambiguous. It’s impressive that this is only Nichols’ second feature.
Tight, flawless editing by Parke Gregg enhances drama. David Wingo contrasts darkness and normalcy with his music.
End or beginning?
The perspective of nature as a benevolent force ready to help humanity is missing here. It’s a worthy theme for upcoming films. (5 out of 5 stars)
Take Shelter 2011 / R / 2 hours
Cast Overview: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Ray McKinnon, LisaGay Hamilton, Rogert Longstreet, Kathy Baker, Tova Stewart
Director: Jeff Nichols
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Suspense, Horror