Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon (Curtis), Samantha (Jessica Chastain)
Directed by Jeff Nichols, “Take Shelter” is yet another existential drama where dreams and reality mesh on a year where many films seemed particularly interested on this subject.
The movie is anchored by the great performance of Michael Shannon playing Curtis, husband to Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and father of a little girl who was born deaf. The film is about his struggle to maintain the seemingly perfect life he leads while dealing with deeply upsetting dreams and visions that feel like premonitions, both to the audience and to his character.
As the days pass, the dreams and hallucinations continue, getting more vivid and upsetting. He feels there is some sort of cataclysmic event coming and that he must do everything he can to protect his family from the disaster. No matter how certain he becomes about what he must do, there is a lingering hesitation that is rooted in his mentally ill mother, who has suffered from schizophrenia for decades.
Crucially, Curtis tries to maintain the appearance of normalcy, afraid those around him will think he is crazy. Not surprinsingly, the facade quickly falls apart and he must choose whether to stick to his plan or further alienate himself from his family and friends.
Despite the well crafted script, “Take Shelter” becomes more about discovering whether he is mentally ill or not, than about the story of Curtis. This is a flaw that mostly stems from the unoriginal theme rather than the film’s structure. It is, after all, delivered to audiences that are familiar with hallucinatory tales like “A Beautiful Mind” or movies like “The Sixth Sense” that have made us especially cynical, often prone to reducing a good film to its final twist.
The film, though great in many ways, suffers from the constant and unnecessary suggestions that frame and prepare us for the final twist. We might not be exactly sure what the outcome will be, but the film reduces our interest to finding out what really happens in the end, taking our focus away from the nuances of the plot.
The script could have also benefited from more substantial supporting characters. Take Shelter becomes too much about Michael Shannon’s own struggle when a good part of it was rooted in how he affected his family and his livelihood, yet we know little about them.
Beyond its faults, “Take Shelter” is a well crafted film elevated by a very strong cast led by a wonderfully mysterious and troubled Michael Shannon who, once again, exceptionally delivers by playing a non-remarkable guy with very unique problems.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 (good)