Take Shelter

Dir: Jeff Nichols
Star: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart

Curtis LaForche (Shannon) finds himself increasingly plagued by darkly apocalyptic nightmares, apparently warning him of impending doom, in which those close to him, also try to cause Curtis harm. Concerned about what they mean, he seeks help - his mother has been institutionalized for decades with paranoid schizophrenia, and he's worried he might have inherited this. But, just to be safe, he also begins work to renovate and expand the family's storm shelter in the backyard. However, he doesn't bring his wife (Chastain) in on the plan. Or his decision to take out a loan to fund the work, using their house as collateral. Or the decision to "borrow" equipment from his construction job - employment he can hardly afford to jeopardize, when its health insurance is funding a much-needed operation for their deaf daughter (Stewart). So: is Curtis delusional, and flushing his family's future down the backyard bunker? Or is there genuine reason for concern?

This is one of those films where you get the concept in the first 20 minutes, and everything comes to a head in the last 20 minutes. But what determines the success or failiure, as mich as those sections, are what happens in the middle - and in this case, you're talking about a considerable chunk, of 80 minutes or so. And they are the real problem, as there isn't sufficient here to sustain interest, and the audience is left hanging around, waiting for an answer to the questions posed at the end of the paragraph above. Don't get me wrong: the lead performances are both perfectly fine, and certainly help this avoid collapsing into something unwatchable. However, there is not sufficient sense of escalation or dread, and Curtis's motivations remain largely obscure - especially the lack of interest in taking his wife into his confidence, since she seems more than willing to put up with a lot of his shit. If you slog through the middle section, the pay off is solid, and not one we quite saw coming. However, this is no more than a good Twilight Zone episode, needless extended to over two hours in length.

[January 2013]

It's the end of the 
world as he knows it...
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