VOD film review: Take Shelter
Ivan Radford | On 28, Oct 2013
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart
Watch Take Shelter online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV
After the neighbourhood nutter in Revolutionary Road and Kim Fowley in The Runaways, Michael Shannon is getting good at playing mad people. Take Shelter adds to his portfolio of unbalanced men with Curtis, a miner devoted to his supportive wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and deaf daughter, Hannah (Stewart). But headaches, bad dreams and hallucinations arrive, coupled with a niggling suspicion that the world is about to end.
Take Shelter’s script intelligently approaches the thorny issue of mental illness, focusing on the domestic fallout as Curtis refuses to discuss his visions of a destructive storm with his pained partner. But while the relationships and dialogue are both without flaw, Nichols’ real trick is to keep things rooted to Curtis’ perspective. We see and hear what he does, aided by some staggering visual effects – clouds swirl on the horizon and birds start thronging wildly like they’re auditioning for that Capital FM advert from five years ago.
Most unsettling of all, perhaps, are the vivid nightmare sequences. Violent outbursts suddenly erupt as brownish rain pounds Curtis’ face, and the unexpected editing makes it all feel real. Curtis’ delusions repeatedly wrong-foot us, multiplying our dread as his mental health worsens. And Shannon conveys it all by barely saying a word.
It’s an understated performance from the actor, and his tormented presence makes Take Shelter spellbinding to watch – particularly during these nuanced moments of internal unease. At one point, Curtis stands by a deserted motorway as giant forks of lightning shoot down from the sky. “Is anybody else seeing this?” he mumbles. The grand apocalyptic visions are terrifying to behold, but more harrowing still is the hushed sense of chaos as one man’s mind succumbs to total disorder.
Take Shelter is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.