Jeff Nichols is one of the most acclaimed directors working today and it was this, his second film, that took him from promising indie contender to a highly sought-after talent. Michael Shannon plays Curtis, a building manager in rural Ohio. He and his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) have a young daughter who is deaf. The family are learning sign language together.
Curtis has a good life but something just doesn’t seem right to him. When he looks at the large dark clouds that sometimes gather over his property he feels that something truly horrifying could be imminent. His fears begin to materialize in a series of vivid nightmares.
Soon, Curtis’s behavoir starts to change. He grows distant from his wife and begins to alienate co-workers. With his remaining rationality he wonders if he might be starting to develop chronic mental illness – as his mother did at around the same age.
Take Shelter is primarily about fear. We all know that fear serves a crucial evolutionary purpose, but of all the forces that guide us, it is perhaps the most unreliable. Our childhood worries about monsters in the closet did nothing to protect us from this world’s real dangers. A person may pursue a strenuous regime in hopes of extending their life, only to get hit by a car.
Curtis may be crazy, he might just be stressed or he might even be some kind of prophet. Nichols wants you to ask these questions but he doesn’t want to answer them. Like many great storytellers before him, he likes to let the audience decide for themselves. The film’s ending certainly provides much to discuss and it may make you question everything that preceeded it.
Shannon is always a compelling screen presence and this may be his finest performance to date. He and Nichols have become frequent collaborators. Chastain is also excellent in a less rewarding role. This new limited edition release includes a selection of extras. There’s behind the scenes footage, press junket interviews and a brand new interview with Nichols in which he talks about the film’s modest success but significant impact (and no, he’s still not going to explain the ending).
In the seven years since Take Shelter was released, Nichols has gone on to release three more films and he’s not even forty yet. This is where he really began to find his voice.
Dir: Jeff Nichols
Scr: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham
Prd: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin,
DoP: Adam Stone
Music: David Wingo
Runtime: 120 mins
Take Shelter is released on Limited Edition Blu-Ray on 3rd September 2018