Thursday, 1 December 2011



This is an interesting film, but it's not what it's been billed as, at least on the cinema websites. Cineworld claim it's a "haunting psychological thriller" but while it may be psychological, it's not a thriller and it's not haunting; and according to them it "blends heartfelt domestic drama with disaster movie spectacle", which is again only half right. Fine: Cineworld need to put bums on seats and billing the film as "a bleak psychological character piece ..... that blends heartfelt domestic drama with a man possibly succumbing to delusions and/or an inherited mental condition with the occasional jumpy bit" isn't going to sell them much popcorn and nachos. This certainly isn't a horror film, despite the approaching Apocalypse; it's a character drama focusing on a man's mental disintegration.

Take Shelter stars Michael Shannon as Curtis, an ordinary small-town family guy with a blue-collar job and a loving family: out of nowhere he starts having dreams of an apocalyptic storm. But are they genuine visions of an imminent Armageddon - visions which become more vivid as the film progresses, with people or creatures of some unknown and unseen kind snatching his child away - or merely the early signs of schizophrenia, the same condition that wrecked his mother's life at about the same age? Curtis doesn't want to take any chances and doubles the size of the family's tornado shelter - but what will it cost him (and not just financially)? And are his wife (Jessica Chastain) and his deaf daughter in more danger from him and his obsessions than from this mythical storm, that might just be one of the regular twisters that affect that part of the country? Or is it all in his head?

It's a very low-key movie, it's very believable and it certainly feels like an authentic portrait of that world and those characters, and it has a pleasantly chilling ending that wraps the film up very neatly. I'm also glad that the apocalypse wasn't presented in religious terms. But it's far too long at a scratch over two hours, and it badly needs trimming in the sags between the dramatic peaks. Take Shelter has been critically lauded, perhaps too much (it's not "an American Masterpiece"!) and it won one of the Fipresci Prizes in Cannes from the International Federation Of Film Critics, but while I admired the film in places, I found it a bit of a slog in places. It's definitely overlong, and too downbeat and humourless, but at least partially successful as a drama and the more I think about it the more I like it.


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