Along with Shame and Drive, Take Shelter was one of the most surprising omissions from 2012 Oscar nominations. Set in a rural area of Northern Ohio, the second film by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) follows the increased paranoia and distress of Curtis (Michael Shannon), a construction worker, as he’s faced with apocalyptic dreams forecasting a destructive, otherworldly storm.
Married to a supportive woman, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and with a small daughter, Hanna (Tova Stewart), Curtis will try to follow his instinct of preparing themselves against the storm while concerned about his mental health. Understandably enough, this will cause him problems with his family and closest environment.
The movie plays as an intense drama with some elements of thriller (is Curtis mentally ill or is there something really going on?) and horror (the disturbing dreams). The script, written by the director himself, carefully avoids the easy route regarding mental illness or the possible end of the world.
Actor Michael Shannon plays a tortured character, but one who never loses his humanity and a noticeable love for his wife and daughter. For her part, Jessica Chastain gives credibility to a loving, yet not dumb or stereotyped, wife.
The filmmaker keeps a perfect balance between the family drama and the uncertainty of an upcoming disaster, thanks to a masterfully controlled pace. Along with the magnificent work of the actors, the cinematography by Adam Stone powerfully captures the ominous quality of the landscape, while the music by David Wingo subtly intensifies what’s seen on the screen.
Certainly, Take Shelter deserved better luck at the awards and a wider release, but I’m sure it will become a cult-movie.
Images: Sony Pictures Classics
’The Road‘, by Cormac McCarthy