SHELTER

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

With a name like Shelter, you’d be forgiven for expecting a discourse on the problems with the American welfare system. But rather than a film about homelessness, Paul Bettany’s directorial début instead uses the theme simply as a backdrop for a story about two homeless people, who in spite of varying ways in which they are deliberately set up as polarised from one another, over the course of it discover they have much more in common than either of them might have supposed.

Tahir (Mackie) is a quietly sober Nigerian refugee whose paperwork has elapsed, and who finds himself now a low-priority illegal on the streets of the Big Apple. Into his orbit arrives Hannah (Connelly), damaged goods of the heroin-addicted variety. She’s a devout atheist, whereas he’s unswerving in his religious beliefs, and some of the early part of the film is given over to creditably even-handed conversations about their differences in philosophy – which might feel like a clumsy authorial conceit if it weren’t for the subtle humour with which they are delivered. In fact, there’s a sporadically surfacing effervescence throughout the early film, offsetting its darker second half, making the experience a substantially less intense one than anticipated; a long detour where the nascent ‘couple’ discovers a large unlocked apartment belonging to an affluent family who fortunately have gone away for the summer, makes Hannah’s cold turkey a lot less painful than it might otherwise have been. Unfortunately, this unwillingness to welter in the reality of homelessness renders Shelter more of an admittedly grim fairy tale than a true depiction of lives on the streets, and as it gradually adjusts towards melodrama, its nature as a work of fiction rather than a genuine attempt to capture something of the reality of the destitute is revealed.

Anyone acquainted with Requiem for a Dream will know just how capable Connelly is with this kind of material, and presumably, Bettany wrote this role specifically with his wife in mind. She’s utterly convincing – frighteningly so when you see her skinny, wiry frame later in the film – giving a performance that’s much more subtle and complete than many others would, even down to an almost imperceptible addicts’ twitch which isn’t allowed to dominate the character. But the understated Mackie is the real centre around which Shelter revolves, and he’s a calm, stoic, and charismatic presence. There are some intelligent authorial touches, like the use of water to symbolise important moments in the story, and the handheld photography captures New York beautifully. But you can’t help feeling that Shelter is a little too contrived to convince of its authenticity, and a little too obvious as awards bait to generate a genuinely emotional response.

SHELTER / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PAUL BETTANY / STARRING: JENNIFER CONNELLY, ANTHONY MACKIE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


Suggested Articles:
Big old houses. On the one hand, great - impress your mates with all that space to spread themselv
Laura is the definitive popular girl, surrounded by grounded friends, a hunky surfer boyfriend and
Paths of Glory is a 1957 World War 1 drama based on a true story, and its release on blu-ray is a
Harking back both to anthology and calendar-related horrors of the past, Holidays sets a task for ea
scroll back to top

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

Other articles in DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

WOLF CREEK - THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES 28 September 2016

DARLING 27 September 2016

FRIEND REQUEST 27 September 2016

PATHS OF GLORY (1957) 27 September 2016

THE EVIL IN US 27 September 2016

CONSUMPTION 27 September 2016

DARK MATTER SEASON 2 27 September 2016

MINISCULE: VALLEY OF THE LOST ANTS 26 September 2016

HOLIDAYS 26 September 2016

WARCRAFT: THE BEGINNING 26 September 2016

- Entire Category -

Sign up today!
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner