|Distributor:||Sony Pictures Classics|
Following his acclaimed debut, Shotgun Stories, writer/director Jeff Nichols reteams with actor Michael Shannon to create a haunting tale that will creep under your skin and expose your darkest fears.
Curtis LaForche lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His seemingly inexplicable behavior concerns and confounds those closest to him, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community can’t compare with Curtis’s privately held fear of what his dreams may truly signify.
Take Shelter features fully realized characters crumbling under the weight of real-life problems. Using tone and atmosphere to chilling effect, Nichols crafts a powerful psychological thriller that is a disturbing tale for our times.
The looming presence of Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) was made for a role like Curtis, the haunted protagonist of Take Shelter. On paper, Curtis would appear to be a normal mid-American husband and father; a construction manager, he has a wife (Jessica Chastain) and a hearing-impaired daughter, and a nice piece of land in tornado country. But, of course, he can’t be entirely normal, because he’s played by Michael Shannon. So, after suffering nightmares that gradually turn into waking hallucinations, Curtis becomes convinced that a great disaster is coming. His behavior, and his insistence on building out the storm shelter in the backyard, suggests he is either visionary or going out of his mind. This film by Shotgun Stories director Jeff Nichols is all eerie buildup, a series of ominous signs or concerned conversations. Because Shannon is such a formidable and uneasy presence, some of this is intriguing for a while (and Tree of Life star Chastain contributes her strong instincts to the marital scenes), but somehow by the end the whole thing feels more portentous than insightful, like a lofty take on an M. Night Shyamalan project but without Shyamalan’s canny storytelling sense. —Robert Horton