Summer 2012 Features series
Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 8:00pm
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Screenplay by Jeff Nichols
Starring Shea Whigham, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Shannon
Rated 14A ·
A Special Presentation at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Take Shelter is a darkly compelling domestic drama-cum-psychological thriller set in the rural American heartland. Propelled by the mesmerizing performance of Michael Shannon (Machine Gun Preacher, Revolutionary Road) as a young husband and father plagued by apocalyptic visions, writer-director Jeff Nichols crafts a haunting and powerful film.
Curtis LaForche (Shannon) lives in a small town in Ohio with his loving wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain, The Debt, Tree of Life), and their hearing-impaired six-year-old daughter. A solid, taciturn working class man, Curtis seems to have everything a modest man could wish for. When he starts having nightmares about ominous black clouds and an impending storm that threatens disaster for his family and small community, he does his best to push these visions from his mind. Keeping his turmoil to himself, Curtis starts channelling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His increasingly irrational and inexplicable behaviour soon imperils his job and the family finances, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community cannot compare with Curtis’s fear of what his dreams may truly signify.
Borrowing elements from the thriller, horror and disaster-movie genres, Take Shelter is ultimately a complex and engrossing family drama about a man striving to protect the ones he loves from the imminent threats he sees all around him – whether real or imagined. Using tone and atmosphere to chilling effect – from the glowering skies and forlorn landscapes, to the ominous chords of the soundtrack and unnerving special effects – Nichols masterfully creates an aura of unease. Together with Shannon’s performance, Take Shelter is a disquieting tale for our times that is both deeply unsettling as it is unforgettable.
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert describes this film as a frightening thriller based not on special effects gimmicks but on a dread that seems quietly spreading in the land: that the good days are ending, and climate changes or other sinister forces will sweep away our safety. This is masterful filmmaking.