Take Shelter is a rare example of a film that successfully blends the low-key, nuanced drama of an indie production with high-stakes, genre film-making.
The film follows Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) as he suffers from apocalyptic dreams and hallucinations, causing his behaviour to become increasingly erratic as he becomes further convinced that he’s having legitimate visions of a coming storm for which he must prepare a shelter in his back garden. As his life becomes consumed by these urges, it begins to unravel, be it him taking out a bad loan to fund his obsession or neglecting his worklife to the point that he’s fired.
Understandably, those around him start to worry that he’s developing paranoid schizophrenia, and his wellbeing largely falls on the shoulders of wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) who tries desperately to help him through the difficulties he’s having for the sake of their marriage and the sake of their daughter. Whether or not Curtis is actually some sort of doomsday prophet or is simply mentally ill is beside the point - writer / director Jeff Nichols is far less interested in the great storm Curtis believes is on the horizon than he is in the strain that this puts on their marriage.
Everything in Take Shelter, from the direction to the cinematography to the music, is produced to an extremely high quality, but the real standout element is the acting. This was essentially Jessica Chastain’s breakout performance, being released shortly before The Help, for which she received her first Oscar nomination. Michael Shannon - another truly gifted actor - had, on the other hand, nearly 20 years of very respectable credits to his name at this point. This makes it all the more remarkable that Take Shelter still, to this date, stands as, arguably, the best performances of either of their respective careers.
This Blu-ray release preserves the gorgeous sounds and visuals of the film and also comes with a selection of special features including deleted scenes, the trailer and a myriad of interviews and Q&A sessions featuring Nichols, Shannon and Chastain. Whilst most of these seem to be raw footage taken at film festivals, one surprisingly in-depth interview with Nichols offers a great deal of insight into the film’s production, even going so far as to delve into its divisive ending and offering a great deal of insight into its intended meaning.
While none of these features are mind-blowing, they certainly help you to appreciate the film further. Take Shelter is an intensely intimate and clearly very personal film. On its surface, it’s a dark, brooding affair about mental illness and disaster waiting to happen, but dig beneath the surface and you’ll find a sweet and very powerful tale about the strength that can be found in partnerships and the resilience of love.
TAKE SHELTER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JEFF NICHOLS / SCREENPLAY: JEFF NICHOLS / STARRING: JESSICA CHASTAIN, MICHAEL SHANNON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
EXTRA FEATURES: Commentary with Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon, Behind the Scenes featurette, Q&A with Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham, Deleted Scenes