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Take Shelter Review

takeshelter 567Sony Pictures Classics bought Take Shelter blindly before it had even premiered at Sundance 2011, a rare occurrence in the indie film world. This happened for one main reason: Michael Shannon. Shannon (Oscar-nominated for Revolutionary Road) gives a gripping, powerhouse performance as Curtis LaForche, a man plagued by apocalyptic visions. Thanks to great writing and direction by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories), the story, pacing, and supporting cast add to Shannon’s performance, which serves to sink us deeper into this sci-fi, psychological drama.

LaForche lives in rural Ohio and is husband to a beautiful wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and the father of a young, hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart). He works for a construction company day-in and day-out, but, slowly, nightmarish visions paint an entirely different picture of his life and future. His love for his family and his desire to protect them heighten his fears, and he focuses his anxiety-ridden energy into building a costly storm shelter in his backyard. The shelter becomes the focal point of the film, and his drive to complete it mirrors his rising level of worry.

As the movie progresses, we delve deeper into LaForche’s head while he pulls further away from reality, but director Jeff Nichols doesn’t let us fall too far down the rabbit hole. Instead, LaForche becomes a relatable character, and his struggle and fears, in turn, become just as plausible and realistic. Nichols moves the story along at a slow but steady pace, but Take Shelter never bores. Instead, it builds calmly as LaForche’s anxiety level rises. At the same time, Jessica Chastain shines as Samantha, the strong, small-town mother, who is unwilling to let her family fall apart. Without any overbearing energy, Samantha observes her husband’s actions as she struggles to decide if she needs to protect him, learn from him, or leave him.  

I saw twelve films total at Sundance 2011, and Take Shelter is one of my favorites. It is a movie for today, and its simple, unfolding story will sneak under your skin and stay with you after you leave the theater. It delicately reflects our age of anxiety by focusing on one man’s internal struggle to understand himself and the world around him. It’s not as shocking as say Black Swan, or as otherworldly as Signs, but its subtlety is its strength. It is a finely tuned drama peppered with tension-filled scenes and a handful of scary moments, but, ultimately, it is a movie about family and love. The end result: we aren’t horrified by LaForche’s fears, we are empathetic and understanding, which makes Take Shelter a movie worth taking in.

Take Shelter is slated to come out sometime during 2011.

Ellen Tremiti, Fanbase Press Contributor



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