Take Shelter (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/11/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 123 mins

Powerfully emotional and extremely tense, this is an impressively directed and superbly written drama with a riveting central performance from Michael Shannon.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jeff Nichols (reteaming with Shannon after Shotgun Stories), Take Shelter stars Michael Shannon as Curtis, a small-town quarry worker who works hard to provide for his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain AGAIN) and their deaf daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart). However, when Curtis is plagued by dreams of an apocalyptic storm, he can feel his mental state slipping and he worries that he's becoming like his schizophrenic mother (Kathy Baker).

As the nightmares get worse, Curtis obsessively builds an underground shelter in his garden to protect his family from the oncoming storm, but his growing paranoia and increasingly erratic behaviour jeopardises his job, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the health insurance for Hannah's upcoming operation on her hearing.

The Good
If you were being facetious, you could describe Take Shelter as a film about Michael Shannon trying not to turn into Michael Shannon, since he almost always plays twitchy obsessives of one sort or another. That said, he's on stunningly terrific form here and the sharply written script ensures that we share his fears – both real and imagined - and understand his behaviour every step of the way.

On top of that, the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain delivers yet another superb performance as Samantha, torn between her love and support for Curtis and her own fears over what his behaviour will mean for their health insurance. There's also adorable support from Tova Stewart (who is deaf in real life), while Shannon's Boardwalk Empire co-star Shea Whigham is excellent as Curtis' work colleague Dewart.

The Great
Nichols expertly builds tension throughout and the nightmare sequences are genuinely terrifying, just as we strongly feel what it might be like to slowly lose your mind. Similarly, the script's approach to mental illness is extremely refreshing – for example, Curtis immediately researches, identifies and seeks help for his symptoms rather than ignoring them as seems to happen in every other movie about mental illness.

In addition, Nichols orchestrates a number of excellent scenes (a town hall meeting sequence is a particular highlight) and there's a terrific final shot to boot.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, Take Shelter is a thoroughly gripping, powerfully emotional drama with a terrific central performance from Michael Shannon. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 13/12/2018 02:11

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