Take Shelter

Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you” – Joseph HellerĀ 

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols) is a frightening character study of Curtis, a seemingly solidly middle class man, who slowly slides into insanity.

Plagued by disturbing dreams – that are really scary for the viewer – he realises that he is going round the bend. Yet, and this is where the film really shines, that self knowledge cannot stop him from acting ever more irrationally. A chilling example is when Curtis reads a book on mental disease at night, in the storm shelter in his back yard.

The storm shelter in his back yard is the physical symptom of his troubles. He is unable to stop himself from enlarging it, at great cost – financial, moral and emotional.

His wife, played convincingly by Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, The Help), is slow to pick up the signs. Instead she focusses on the well being of their young daughter who is deaf. But when she does twig on, her role goes from strength to strength in all its hopelessness.

Already in danger of moving into spoiler territory, suffice to say that Michael Shannon who plays Curtis, steals the show. At times I wondered whether he was actually that well cast in the role. But overall his slightly “not there” quality added a lot to the part.

My favorite scene involved a visit by Curtis’ older brother, who – when faced by his brother’s troubles is so unable to cope that he instead offers to lend him a hand in the building of the storm shelter.

The film is beautiful, if slightly uneven at times. The imagery reminds us that we are watching an indie and not a slick studio movie – not necessarily a bad thing.

Some negatives then: the movie does take its time, at a full two hours. Trimming about 20 minutes out would have done it no harm. And, at danger of giving something away, the very final finale was something of an anti-climax and to me undermined the whole premise and meaning of the film.

Summing up: Go See – but don’t expect to leave the theatre humming a showtune…..