Curtis, a father and husband, is starting to experience bad dreams and hallucinations. Assuming mental illness, he seeks medical help and counseling. However, fearing the worst, he starts building an elaborate and expensive storm shelter in their backyard. This storm shelter threatens to tear apart his family, threatens his sanity and his standing in the community, but he builds it to save his family's life. Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. What a beautiful piece of filmmaking that up-and-coming writer/director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) delivers. Not only will the story grab you and hold tightly, but Michael Shannon's performance will stun your senses. All of that from a film with very few special effects and a story based in a quiet, rural Ohio town? Yes.
Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Revolutionary Road) plays Curtis, a quiet, hard-working husband and father. His friend and co-worker Dewart is played by Shea Whigham (also Boardwalk Empire). Early on, Dewart tells Curtis (with a touch of envy) that he has a good life, and that's about the best thing you can say about a man. It's about this time that all heck breaks loose for Curtis. He has apocalyptic dreams and visions that a world-changing storm is coming.
Being the strong man and protective head of the family that he is, Curtis tries to keep this quiet. However, his behavior grows more strange as he builds out a storm shelter in the backyard, gets rid of the family dog, and messes things up at work. Most of this wouldn't stand out for most people, but Curtis is the "normal" guy - the one who is consistent and predictable. At least he once was.
Curtis' wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and hearing impaired daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) are supportive and try to give him space, but the family demands are such that a husband and wife confrontation is not long in the making. Turns out Curtis has a family history that drives him to dig a little deeper and even seek help.
After much emotional wrangling, there is a scene at a fundraising dinner where Curtis and Dewart have it out. Shannon's rant is one of the more powerful scenes you will ever see on film, and may have just clinched him an Oscar nomination.
This is a thought-provoking and emotional film that doesn't beat you over the head. Things unfold at a natural pace, in fact, it may be too slow for some viewers. The score is haunting and never once over-bearing as we battle through these stages with Curtis.
The ending may prove controversial, but I just smiled a very satisfied smile in appreciation of one beautiful film. There could be comparisons to Peter Weir's The Last Wave, or even The Coen Brothers' A Serious Man (sans humor), but to me, this one stands on its own as a story of love, support and strength.
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