A perfect complement to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (currently on VOD and in select theaters [Philly in November]), Take Shelter concerns a family man who either has exclusive knowledge of an oncoming apocalypse or is simply going crazy. Curtis (Michael Shannon) is plagued by nightmares in which his loved ones are hurt by disasters both natural and unusual. During these nocturnal slumbers, painterly skies filled with ominous clouds pour an amber, grease-like liquid onto the heads of Curtis’ wife (The Tree of Life‘s Jessica Chastain), deaf daughter, and dog before the world reaches its end. His fear of the possible but unlikely reality of these events coming to pass prompts Curtis to expand his backyard storm shelter while he disassociates himself from those who may be harmed. The smiting of Earth seems even more unlikely when it’s revealed that Curtis’ mother was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic in her 30’s and that he may very well be facing the same mental disorder, his increased delusions and hallucinations certainly attest to this. The film builds to a storm that allows Curtis the opportunity to face his disease and repair his family, but things don’t end there…
The film seems conventional enough, but, unlike the aforementioned Melancholia, insists on foregoing definitive closure for an ambiguous ending that inadvertently eliminates any subtext that viewers may have gleaned (or it could be viewed as a twist ending, subtextually, but that’s a pretty big gesture for a rather personal film). Regardless of this, Shannon’s performance as he progressively breaks from reality (or does he?) is a memorable one and is really the only reason to see this pointless drama (though viewers who can identify with the disorder at hand will surely gain more from this film than others).
Take Shelter opens today at the Ritz Five.
Author: Eric Bresler
Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.