Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gimme Shelter

We went into Take Shelter (2011) expecting a variation on 10 Cloverfield Lane: A possibly crazed man locks some people in a shelter, claiming that he is protecting them from some horrible apocalypse. This premise was strengthened by the "Coming Attraction" on the DVD, for Retreat, which is the same thing on an island. Take Shelter isn't really that movie.

It stars Michael Shannon as a regular working guy in Iowa or Ohio or some flat place. He works in construction, likes to drink beer and hang out with his buddies. His wife, Jessica Chastain, does some sewing for vacation money, but mostly stays home to take care of their deaf daughter (Tova Stewart, a deaf kindergartner - not an actress, but a real shining presence). But Shannon starts to have bad dreams, dreams about a storm. Not just a storm, but a world ending cataclysm. So he starts cleaning out the storm cellar.

Minor spoiler - the family does wind up in the storm cellar. But it's not what I was expecting at all. Mostly it's about Shannon's deteriorating mental condition. He hides it from his friends and his wife for as long as he can. He can't tell his wife about one dream because it made him wet the bed, and there's no way he's going to admit to that. So there's a good bit of stuff about masculinity and mental health. But it also keeps you off balance wondering whether he's right about the coming disaster. You wind up rooting for apocalypse, because it would prove he's not crazy.

This is the first feature written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who seems to specialize in moody stories in rural settings that explore the male psyche. This isn't really my thing, but I liked it here a lot.

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