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Take Shelter

Posted by martinteller on February 28, 2012

I was going to try to be clever and make all sorts of comparisons to Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear (another film about a man becoming paranoid about what he perceives to be a coming apocalypse) but those plans gradually faded away.  The two films aren’t enough alike to draw any interesting parallels.  Kurosawa is addressing very real phobias about nuclear destruction, while Nichols presents a vague storm with “fresh motor oil” rain and birds dropping out of the sky and people acting violently.  Which you could read as an analogy for the financial crisis or global warning, but really the point seems to be that Curtis (Michael Shannon) has developed unshakable fears about his ability to protect his family (wife Jessica Chastain and deaf daughter Tova Stewart).

The development of Curtis’s state of mind (if one chooses to read it as paranoia instead of prophecy) occurs largely without grand, dramatic gestures.  Shannon’s performance is excellent as we see him caving in to his fears but still struggling to maintain a degree of normalcy.  He isn’t a raving lunatic, he knows his thoughts are irrational and yet the control he has over them is minimal.  There is one “freak out” scene which bothered me for a moment, because it felt so inconsistent and unexpected.  But that’s what schizophrenia is… inconsistent and unexpected.  The dream sequences are especially effective in this film, restrained but unsettling.  Chastain is also quite good… maybe not as good as in Tree of Life, or maybe I just love that film too much to be unbiased.

As for the film’s final moment, my only disappointment is that I felt it was really obvious that it would end like that.  I wasn’t aware going into it that the movie had any particular kind of ending, I just… saw it coming, from miles away.  But that doesn’t make it a bad ending.  I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving it away (if I haven’t already) so I’ll just say I still liked it.  I can think of alternatives I might have also liked, but I don’t know if it matters.  The film as a whole is satisfying, thoughtful and well constructed.  Rating: Very Good


4 Responses to “Take Shelter”

  1. Chuck said

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve followed you from the boards and I’m still reading your reviews.

  2. Thanks!

  3. whatsupwill said

    It is so an analogy for the financial collapse! Nichols constantly reminds us of their economic problems throughout whether it’s the gas station or the surgery for the little girl.

    Good review.

    • Thanks! I think the financial crisis is part of the world these characters live in, but I’m not entirely convinced that it has anything to do with the “storm” he sees coming.

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