Take Shelter 2011 ★★★★★

Take Shelter is a film of rare power and beauty and one that I really wish I had experienced on the big screen. Like the work of Terrence Malick this Jeff Nichols’ sophomore effort is not easy to convey in text as the film is about the feelings that it evokes and it demands to be experienced first hand. Few films have made me quite so tense and sweaty palmed as this. From the opening few minutes there is an almost suffocating air of foreboding that runs throughout the picture only to be punctuated by moments of quite beautiful serenity. I apologise if that sounds a little hokey, as I said earlier it isn’t easy to articulate the emotions you feel whilst watching it.

Whether he is in the early stages of schizophrenia or is genuinely experiencing prophetic visions was almost immaterial to me. Yes, the question is ever present and the film does strive for answers but for me it is much more about the mood it evokes than looking for clear explanations to the plot. In many ways it is a film about nothing more than a midlife crisis and the weight of responsibility in a time of great uncertainly. The storms and near biblical visions are mere external manifestations of these crises. I think it is that very ordinary and universal pressure that makes it such a relatable experience and makes the extra-ordinary elements that much more powerful.

The photography is stunning, the subtle special effects are amazing given the $1 million budget, and the David Wingo score is incredibly effective during the key moments. The film contains by far and away Michael Shannon’s greatest performance. Shannon often plays damaged characters but many of them are quite broad yet here his character is rich and complex and he is a magnetic presence. Jessica Chastain is equally as impressive as the ever loving wife, a role that could well have been one-dimensional in lesser hands, whilst the rest of the cast deliver faultless performances.

I apologise, I didn’t want to waffle on and that is what I’ve done, just go and watch the film on the biggest screen you can find, no words can do it justice you really must experience it for yourself.

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