MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Take Shelter is a slow, careful study of mental illness via an apocalyptic backdrop. It’s not an easy film and often struggles to really hook in the viewer but fundamentally it attempts something very interesting through a very measured process.
Starring Michael Shannon as Curtis (who kept on reminding me of Dominic West, is that just me?), Take Shelter opens with the ominous scene of an oncoming storm producing dirty rain and the feeling of utter foreboding. Curtis is a construction worker, living with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their young, deaf daughter. Curtis keeps having these dreams and visions which plague his waking family life. What’s especially interesting is Curtis remains aware that he has a problem and seeks expert help despite finding it difficult to open up to his wife. It’s often said that not knowing you’re going mad is the first sign of madness, so the film begs the interesting question: can you still be going mad if you’re aware you are going mad?
Michael Shannon gives a very strong, introverted central performance given the difficult nature of the character and Jessica Chastain does a nice job supporting him. The film’s set up is very interesting and the difficult subject matter is handled meticulously. Unfortunately, I’ve got to admit it did feel occasionally tiresome and the slow pacing just felt a bit too slow and lacked the necessary intensity to really make much of a statement. The whole film is incredibly introspective, with big cathartic moments few and far between. I imagine a lot of viewers will find this understandably frustrating and to an extent, the repetitive “scary dream”, depressed aftermath, seeking of therapy routine does get a bit wearisome.
Take Shelter is nonetheless a good film, occasionally rather poignant but I feel it could have been even more so. It ends at an interesting point which will be sure to spark plenty of discussion, and that’s never a bad thing.
Take Shelter is out now on 25th November in the UK. Running time: 120 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank