Take Shelter Review

A storm is threatening our hero’s very life today.

Outside an archetypical american picket fence home in some good ol’ american farming land stands a farmer looking up to the heavens.

With his masculine build and broad shoulders, Curtis cuts an imposing yet entirely logical figure in this agricultural landscape.

Then thick orange drops of rain begin to pelt down from the sky as a storm of biblical proportions gathers on the horizon.

That’s when Curtis wakes up in a cold sweat and realises his nightmarish vision was only that.

So he settles down for breakfast with his picture perfect wife, Samantha, and their adorable little girl before getting on with his daily routine working as a construction foreman.

Only the next night, a different dream with the same theme, plagues his sleep.

Curtis’ dreams are so vivid that when he awakes from his subconscious mind, he can still feel the pain and see the marks inflicted upon him in his imagination.

But are these dreams visions of the future, or is Curtis’ mental health and very future disintegrating before him, as happened to his mother at a similar age?

Either way, Curtis is determined to take action and make sure his family is sheltered from the storm he has foreseen in his mind.

Take Shelter feels like a film that’s bitten off more than it can chew.

At first, it seems like the story is that of a man in bible belt america who’s struggling to separate fantasy from reality, as his dreams become more lucid and powerful.

Yet the further Take Shelter burrows into this theme, the more profound the consequences of mental instability are sketched; and not just for the person drowning in his own mind, but his network of family and friends.

The two leading actors are compelling enough to draw you into their increasingly depressing lives, with Jessica Chastain again proving why she’s Hollywood’s new belle du jour as the increasingly embattled Samantha.

But it’s the hulking presence of Michael Shannon, who I have visions of becoming a household name once Man Of Steel is released, that really brings this film together.

His stoic portrayal of Curtis, a man as strong and unyielding as oak struggling to cope with the shifting sands of his mind, drags you into the world writer and director Jeff Nichols has sought to create.

So even when Take Shelter changes tack and starts to feel more like a mental health infomercial, you still remain gripped.

The ending is a little unsatisfactory for my tastes, covering every base without really offering up any concrete answers.

But then, guided by Mick Jagger’s prophesy, I had a feeling Take Shelter might just fade away.

Jonathan Campbell

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December 2011
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