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TAKE SHELTER (director/writer: Jeff Nichols; cinematographer: Adam Stone; editor: Parke Gregg; music: David Wingo; cast: Michael Shannon (Curtis), Jessica Chastain (Samantha), Shea Whigham (Dewart), Katy Mixon (Nat), Ray McKinnon (Kyle), LisaGay Hamilton (Kendra), Robert Longstreet (Jim), Kathy Baker (Sarah, his mother).; Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin; Sony Pictures Classics; 2011)
An intelligent bone chilling art-house film about dealing with our anxiety in the modern world.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An intelligent bone chilling art-house film about dealing with our anxiety in the modern world.Writer-director Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories”/”Mud”/”Loving”) presents a most beguiling heady original film, one that eschews Hollywood formula.

The drama is set in a small town in Ohio. The intense blue-collar worker Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon), a crew manager for a sand-mining company, is happily married to Samantha (Jessica Chastain). They have a six-year-old, hearing-impaired, daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart). Things unravel when Curtis starts losing sense of reality that’s precipitated by bad recurring dreams and visions of an apocalypse. He is caught in a storm no one else is aware of, while his outward behavior becomes increasingly weird to his family and workplace colleagues. Anxieties and hallucinations take over his waking life. He rejects psychological help. After one impossible to believe incident, in which he believes zombies attacked him in his car. He further upsets his wife by taking out a loan to build an underground shelter against storms he’s positive will strike with deadly force. It eventually segues into a story about mental illness and how unsettling it is to live with that disease or live with a loved one who is afflicted.

It works as a dark psychological thriller because it is so terrifyingly real and shows how dark things can become when detached from reality that it leaves us with a sense of unease. It teases the viewer by leaving it open as to whether or not Curtis is nuts or prescient. The filmmaker leaves room to take either side and feel justified.

This heavy-weight, thinking person’s film won the prize at the Critics’ Week in 2011 in Cannes.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”