The sophomore effort from writer-director Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter concerns blue-collar father Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon), happily married to Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and proud parent of a deaf daughter. When Curtis starts having apocalyptic visions of a biblical thunderstorm, and of his loved ones turning on him, it begins to tear his family apart.
For a film about the apocalypse, Take Shelter is the definition of slow-burning. The event itself is almost irrelevant: the film instead provides a stunning character study of a man watching himself go insane. The ending is deliberately ambiguous, and we are never aware of whether Curtis is losing his mind or actually some sort of latter-day prophet, and the astounding haunting cinematography by Adam Stone compliments this uncertainty perfectly.
The performances are astonishing: that Shannon wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is a travesty, but that’s more down to the fact that the film itself slipped under the radar for many viewers. Chastain, so prolific in 2011, is as strong as ever in a well written role of the spouse, something of a rarity in modern cinema.
Though not to everyone’s taste due to slow pacing and lack of conventional, I can find little fault with Nichols’ film. An ill-advised sequence with some poor CGI birds could have been improved, but that is down to budget reasons. Thought-provoking, horrifying, and consistently engaging despite it’s 2 hour running time, I couldn’t recommend Take Shelter more highly. Jeff Nichols is unquestionably a talent to watch.
Take Shelter (2011), directed by Jeff Nichols, is distributed on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate 15.