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Take Shelter More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Michael Shannon deals with depression, fear, and all-out paranoia in Jeff Nichols' reality-bending Take Shelter.

Author: Movie Fail from United States
8 June 2012

Back in 2011, a little film called Take Shelter made a big splash in the critical world. Starring Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) and Jessica Chastain (The Help, Tree of Life), Take Shelter explores one man's struggle with his responsibilities as a father and a husband. Amidst the drama, a helping of science fiction permeates the landscape and throughout the film, the audience is left wondering about the protagonist's grip on reality.

It is this very dichotomy between the real and the unreal that keeps the viewer engaged during Take Shelter. Curtis LaForche is a simple man leading a simple life against the backdrop of a rural town in Ohio. As the movie progresses, we are let into Curtis's mind, and we begin to understand that a penetrating fear has been gnawing at him for some time. As more and more omens seem to appear to him through dreams and visions, it becomes clear to Curtis that a terrible storm is coming that will devastate the lives of everyone he loves.

Michael Shannon is cast perfectly as Curtis, taking great efforts to relay very little information in the first half of the film. Without spoiling the movie, I will say that Shannon's extraordinarily quiet, stutter-filled, and altogether dejected take on the character belies the explosive emotional turmoil going on underneath the surface, and it is a pleasure to see that come to fruition. Jessica Chastain, who plays his wife Samantha, is sympathetic and endearing. Her frustration and incredulity at the actions of her husband offer clues to the audience on what is and is not reality by giving us an objective perspective to identify with.

The aesthetic of Take Shelter is fairly unique. By choosing a rural setting, writer/director Jeff Nichols gives a sense of foreboding, isolation, and visual splendor to the film. Storms are never quite the same when you can see them approaching from miles away across an entirely flat plain, and Nichols realizes this - every bolt of lightning or strange cloud formation offers wonderful spectacle. This is something I believe Take Shelter has in common with Monsters, another film which had little in the way of funding, but a lot to offer in terms of natural landscapes and beautiful cinematography.

Take Shelter is not a film I would recommend going into without first having a solid idea of what it's about. While I enjoyed myself, I had no idea what to expect going in - and I can see how a viewer might enter into this experience without fully understanding that at its heart, Take Shelter is a slow-moving drama. While the level of intrigue is constant throughout the film, and the science fiction elements do periodically spice up the scenery, the two hour runtime and sparse dialogue might turn off folks looking for more thrill-oriented fare (e.g. Moon).

On that note, while I thought Jeff Nichols did an excellent job directing Take Shelter by really emphasizing the internal and external conflicts of Curtis and Samantha, I felt that the pacing of the film was a bit off. The first half to three quarters of the film felt a bit bloated to me, dragging when there was no need to drag. Curtis's core emotional state could have been explained quicker and to greater effect in less time. Nevertheless, Take Shelter doesn't overstay its welcome by much, and this is really a minor quibble when compared with the greater whole.

As the film comes to a close, we are left wondering - was Curtis crazy? Were his paranoid precautions really necessary? I will not go into detail here about these questions, but I always appreciate when a film offers some nourishing food for thought to the viewer; it is this very idea that makes a film like Donnie Darko so fascinating to its fans. Indeed, Take Shelter is nothing if not at the very least a smart, interesting character study of one man and his struggle with life's responsibilities - but there may be more to it than that.

It seems Take Shelter was written off by many potential audience members, myself included, who felt it looked like some sort of ethereal post-apocalyptic film. Rest assured, the minimalistic science fiction in this movie only exists to enhance the drama and illustrate feelings that are normally internalized and hidden from view. The other movie released in 2011 that used science fiction to similar effect was Lars von Trier's Melancholia - but having seen both, Take Shelter is easily the superior film in that does not get lost in its own visuals and instead focuses on the simplicity of good storytelling. The acting is superb, the aesthetics are pure eye candy, and Michael Shannon is a revelation - I'd heartily recommend finding it online or on DVD/Blu-ray and giving it a watch.

Verdict: Movie Win

IMDb Score: 90% (92%)

~ Søren

A Note on Lightning - Be sure to pay attention to Nichols' incredible use of aural and visual parallels. The comparisons of lightning to nervous impulses, garage doors opening to thunder, falling rain to water leaving a shower head, and a sewing machine to a drill give the movie an altogether unique feel and might in fact clue us in to the film's ultimate meaning.

A Note on Noah - I can't help but find a parallel here between Curtis and the biblical story of Noah. Noah spends much of his time while building the ark taking flak from his neighbors over his apparent insanity. The joke, of course, is on them when the rains do eventually come. Curtis's obsession with building the storm shelter in this film seems to echo Noah's ark, but the conclusion to this story is much more vague since Curtis never gets any obvious vindication for his efforts.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Twist in the ending definitely leaves the film as one to remember!

Author: Hellmant from United States
6 March 2012

'TAKE SHELTER': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Jeff Nichols wrote and directed this low budget film about mental illness. Michael Shannon stars as a man with apocalyptic visions of a deadly storm as well as people and pets close to him doing him and his family harm. He must decide how to interpret his visions and what to do about them. Jessica Chastain (who had an amazing year in 2011) co-stars as his wife. The movie is subtle, perfectly paced and emotionally involving.

The film is set in a small town in Ohio where Curtis LaForche (Shannon) lives with his wife Samantha (Chastain) and daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart), who is deaf. He begins having visions of the family's dog as well as a co-worker harming him and his family. He also has visions of a deadly storm hitting his home town. He takes out a loan and borrows equipment from his work to make a shelter in preparation of the storm but as his visions become worse they begin to take their tole on him, his family and everyone around him. He sees a psychiatrist and gets medication for his problem as we learn that his family has a history of psychological problems including his mother who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia at the same age he is now.

The movie is disturbing and painful to watch but all in an emotional and real way. We suffer and feel the same frustration that Curtis and his family do as their problems become very relatable and believable. Michael Shannon is outstanding in the lead role and Chastain is once again topnotch as well. The directing is perfectly subtle yet effective and there's a twist in the ending that definitely leaves the film as one to remember. An experience definitely worth checking out.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Overrated one act copy of similar big budget flick

Author: domdel39 from Canada
9 May 2013

Had high hopes heading into this one.

What is essentially a film about paranoia and the damage it does to the paranoid and their loved ones, turns out, in the end, to be one long drawn out, easily predictable fake out.

An average, everyday Joe starts hearing things and seeing crazy visions of super storms ominously heading his way and swarms of locusts and strange creatures coming after his family. He grows progressively more and more paranoid and withdrawn, until he suddenly finds himself building a bunker in his backyard - much to the concern of family and friends.

To say that Michael Shannon is a good actor is probably not a controversial position to take. He is. Yet, here, in "Take Shelter", he is asked, for most of the picture, to play a character who, emotionally speaking, keeps everything inside. For the bulk of this picture, because of this extreme emotional restraint, Shannon gives an understandably wooden performance. Not just that, but, a wooden performance that seems forced. The choice of playing the character this way is all done in the service of one scene in particular - a freak out at a packed community centre that comes deep into the picture. It's a powerful scene, but, it left me feeling that the film was more interested in screenplay mechanics and cheap gimmicks than story credibility and emotional authenticity. This delay-delay-delay-big payoff treatment of the central character reminded me of Richard Jenkins' performance in "The Visitor." In that film, Jenkins is similarly playing a character whose emotions are contained until one key scene. His blow up isn't as dramatic, but, nonetheless has a similar effect.

On the film making front, the director makes it very clear that he thinks the audience is populated by a bunch of morons. There is a scene where Shannon's character is driving on a country highway late at night - wife and kid by his side. He looks out into the distance and sees one of those crazy-scary super storms heading his way. Pulling over to the side of the road, he gets out and walks towards the storm. Stopping, he looks at it and says, essentially to himself, but, obviously to us as well, "Am I the only one seeing this" or words to that effect. We already knew he was the only one seeing these visions. That much was clear. He, as well, already knew he was the only one seeing this wacky apocalyptic side show. The director, however, was so under confident about his abilities or so under confident about the audiences' intelligence, that he stuck this scene in there to make sure we knew absolutely, without a doubt that Shannon's character was definitely, make not mistake about it, the only one seeing all this crazy, end of world, environmental madness.

As you can tell, I didn't much like this film. There were other problems - his wife takes forever to notice he's going bonkers - but, I'm beating a very dead horse.

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15 out of 28 people found the following review useful:


Author: Valerie James from England
13 July 2012

This is just the kind of movie that will appeal to people who like this kind of movie and apparently there are a quite a few that do. It had an interesting storyline but the dialogue dragged along with lots of pauses, words being spoken as slowly and as painfully as if they might be the last the actor got to speak before they got the chop. I watched it for one and a half hours until, finally, something happened - but not much. Believe me, I had no problem with the story but I just didn't like the way it was enacted.

Curtis (Michael Shannon) fears there is a mighty storm coming, the likes of which no one has ever seen. He starts to have terrible dreams which are so vivid that he feels they are a premonition and he begins to act upon them. One action is the building of a storm shelter set in the ground near his home where he lives with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and child (who is deaf). The shelter becomes an obsession to the point that he jeopardises his marriage and brings them to the point of financial ruin. Unfortunately for Curtis his mother was diagnosed as being a schizophrenic while still in her 30s and was institutionalised because of it. So, are his dreams premonitions or is Curtis suffering from the same illness as his mother?

Sounds great, doesn't it?

Well, it wasn't.

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25 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Not enjoyable at all for me.

Author: rakiani from Plymouth, England
28 January 2012

For me the film is slow which I have no problem with whatsoever, but whereas others see this as adding a deeper level to the feel I see it as a blindfold. The Sound and look is great but I'm a lover of an interesting story to make the atmosphere relevant instead. For all the credit the actors got I felt it was very over-acted and unnatural. Telling you to feel uncomfortable instead of allowing it. If you like low key films in which you see a man have nightmares only to be woken up sweating once every 20 mins, then you'll love this. In between you'll get to see a man look very uncomfortable whilst saying "I'm fine hun". Enjoy.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

This storm is ominous

Author: mitchw-61-305942 from Australia
27 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Michael Shannon is fantastic. So is Jessica Chastain. To be fair, this is Shannon's show. He's character is in 90% of the movie. The audience just follows him around and gets to experience the challenges and isolation of acquiring a "possible" schizophrenia disorder. Last semester at UNI I took Abnormal Psych and discovered there's actually a spectrum for psychotic disorders, from Brief Psychotic Disorder to Delusional Disorder to Schizophreniform Disorder to FULL ON Schizophrenia. It's also common to mistake symptoms for another mental health condition and vice versa. However Shannon's character really does his homework, to the surprise of his Counsellor on his first visit.

The supporting characters were solid. I will just mention them briefly. There is their young daughter, who Shannon and Chastain are hopeful will be having a cochlea replacement soon using Shannon's work health insurance. Shannon's work colleague and friend, his boss, and some friends and acquaintances. Shannon is incredibly believable as his condition becomes more obvious to his wife and work, the more he tries to hide it. His anxieties make him behave strangely, the most obvious being the extension of the storm shelter in his backyard. His construction job is compromised by his behaviour, and I will just leave it there.

The pace of the movie is extremely well done and the score really pronounces this sense of dread. I felt very uneasy watching Take Shelter. The theme was so serious, and Shannon's nightmares were quite terrifying. Both Shannon and Chastain have incredible emotional acting abilities.

The script was well written. Often in movies I think "Well, why didn't s/he say this or do this?" but I never had those thoughts with Take Shelter. I don't know a whole lot about directors but I know they contribute immensely to a movie, so I take my hat off to Jeff Nichols. I think he also wrote the script. What he created was masterful.

The ending left me feeling very sad. Before reading ANY reviews I believed the ending to be literal and I was just crushed. The family were so far away from his storm shelter. I just hoped there was one near the holiday home by the beach, not that it would do much good from what I saw. After reading some reviews I had many other ideas about what the ending could have meant. So the ambiguity worked well for me, and to stop the feeling of sadness I decided to go with The Wizard of Oz.

Recommended by me.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Magnifacent Film

Author: khart-8 from United States
25 December 2013

The performances are flawless. The cinematography is great. The story is multi-layered - and there's an undercurrent of something sublime, prophetic, going on here, in the guise of a film about ordinary people going through difficult times.

It's amazing that a low budget film like this can be so much better than many dozens of high budget ones. The texture and feel of it are real and deep. It makes others seem like Styrofoam.

I'm absolutely going to be on the lookout for more films written & directed by Jeff Nichols, and acting by Michael Shannon & Jessica Chastain.

See this film. It sometimes moves a bit slowly, but ultimately, that's insignificant. Definitely see it.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Apocalypse now or later?

Author: The_late_Buddy_Ryan from UWS, NYC, USA
4 October 2013

Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon seem like the perfect casting choices for Samantha, a luminous but tough Midwestern housewife, and her husband, Curtis, an intense blue-collar guy who's afraid he's losing his mind. Curtis's nightmares and schizoid hallucinations/prophetic visions are standard stuff—catastrophic storms, with lightning flashes and funnel clouds, and zombielike marauders—but w/d Jeff Nichols has a livelier, more detailed sense of what his characters' everyday routines are like than most: Curtis works a drill rig for a sand-and-gravel-operation, Samantha sells handcrafted clothes at a swap meet, they both take their daughter, Hannah, to ASL class. Curtis may be too locked in and obsessive to be a wholly sympathetic character and Samantha seems oddly oblivious while much of this is going on, but the plot pretty much takes care of itself—it has the surefire spookiness of a "Twilight Zone" episode from back in the fallout-shelter era—and the fine performances and sparkling Midwestern landscapes give the film additional indie luster. Curtis's endgame plan to supersize the backyard storm cellar with a buried shipping container and ride out the apocalypse with his family endangers his marriage, his closest friendship (with "B'walk Empire" castmate Shea Wigham), his job, his status in the community, even little Hannah's chances for a cochlear implant on the company health plan, but I wasn't sure if the movie was meant to be an allegory of economic insecurity in contemporary America or if Nichols was trying to make some deeper point. The final, who's-crazy-now? reveal may have seemed like the only way out that's dramatically satisfying, but it leaves the viewer (this one anyway) feeling disappointed; I wondered whether the ending reminded anyone else of the old "appointment in Samarra" story, about the man who tries to escape Death by fleeing to another city. Long story sort—this is an ambitious project that doesn't quite succeed, but still worth watching.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Force of Nature

Author: Doha Film from Qatar
31 July 2012

Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a loving family man working hard to provide a decent life for his wife and deaf child. When he starts to experience vivid dreams and apocalyptic hallucinations, he worries that he may be suffering from a mental illness.

Looking for rational and concrete answers, Curtis takes refuge in science: psychoanalytic books, research and ultimately therapy. He unexpectedly visits his mother to ask about her diagnosis with schizophrenia, which he may be suffering from. His brain is grasping at a medical reality, but the urge to protect his loved ones grows in him like a disease. He must make sure his family can stand strong against the most ferocious of storms.

Torn between scientific reality and an interpretation of these visions he can't ignore, Curtis finds himself building an expensive shelter in order to protect his family from an apocalyptic storm. His behavior threatens to alienate him from those he loves the most.

The prelude of the film is a succession of surreal events as perceived by Curtis himself: brown-colored rain, constant storms and weird-acting animals. Our perception of reality, like Curtis', is suddenly shattered when we realize that no one else can see what he sees. Now the signs are crawling to his bed in the form of nightmares, leaving him restless, confused and completely unfocused.

The sky becomes a lead character, with a symbolic cinematography which is clearly of metaphorical significance. The repetitions, beautifully shot, with different nuances each time are aesthetic and disturbing; interpreting what goes in Curtis' psyche. All he understands from this experience is that he needs to protect his family. These codes, only seen by him, prove once more a la Tarkovsky how nature can become an integral character in understanding what goes beyond what we see, beyond the dialogue.

The film triggers interesting points on the meaning of family, the responsibilities laid upon each member and the struggles between the instinct of protection and the pressure to face the greatest dangers of apocalyptic scales.

'Take Shelter' is the second feature for Jeff Nichols, a masterpiece of visual poetry and a reflection on life through dreams and symbols. He has created a mood crafted like a rare piece of music, with a crescendo to a unique experience of a hallucination-thriller with philosophical dimensions. Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, The Help) implement his vision with a pair of outstanding performances.

Find all of our film and festival coverage, as well as our events and education at Follow us on Twitter @DohaFilm.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

moody and engrossing film

Author: Claire Ady from United States
30 July 2012

This is a psychological thriller / drama revolving around a small family living in some awful middle-of-nowhere town somewhere in (possibly the Midwest?) the US. The family is a mother, father, daughter and dog.

The dad starts to have nightmares about storms, the people he cares about going crazy, or getting hurt, and other catastrophic situations. The dreams start off bad and become terrible. You feel his tension right from the start and the film builds it beautifully. He decides the dreams must be a foretelling of some sort of an apocalyptic storm so he sets about building a storm shelter. The people around him start to think he's crazy and eventually he thinks he might be too.

The movie was a winner at the Cannes film festival, and official selections of the Sundance and Toronto film festivals. The vast majority of critic's reviews have been extremely positive, and I am with them on this.

The main character is played by Michael Shannon, who I know from Boardwalk Empire and not a lot else. His less-is-more approach really suited the story and I really felt his sorrow and terror. There's a great scene when he loses his temper and all the other actors in the scene looked as shocked as I felt.

It's written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who I don't know much about, but I will be expecting great things from him in future. I'll avoid spoiling things by going in to detail but it had just the exact ending I wanted it to have. It just goes to show that you don't need a huge budget to make an excellent, moody, and engrossing film.

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