Take Shelter, the follow-up to director Jeff Nichols’ semi-breakthrough 2007 Shotgun Stories, sees the filmmaker reunited with the actor Michael Shannon. Here the two combine forces once again, in a work which is significantly more ambitious than anything the pair have ever headlined before.
While Shannon has led a number of films in the past, the most significant probably being the Werner Herzog and David Lynch collaboration My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done it’s safe to say that this work will become the actors calling card for the next couple of years. The story of a man who may or may not be going through a mental breakdown, Take Shelter explores the relationship between the LaForche family, with shannon portraying the patriarch, Curtis. His wife, Samantha (a once again impressive Jessica Chastain and daughter adapt to his mood swings, which at their apex see Curtis construct a huge storm shelter in their back yard. As Curtis begins to alienate everyone around him via his delusions and paranoia, the structure of the film traces the emotional path.
While I have a number of reservations about the film in general, one can not deny the power of Michael Shannon’s performance. It’s quite simply a staggering, power-house of a turn, and one that the entire film rests easily upon. The film itself, which is handsomely constructed, and effective for the most part, couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelming when all was said and done, in spite of a wonderfully cryptic ambiguous final scene, which brings to mind The Twilight Zone. Very much following in the vein of The Tree Of Life, albeit reduced in scope and ambition, this particular slice of Americana come Biblical Noir has a lot going for it, and comes highly recommended.