Take Shelter

Take Shelter

two of my least favorite narrative devices are dreams and storms. i've had my wrist slapped enough in workshops to avoid using both things in my own writing. dreams can undermine the weight of the story's reality, often appearing as a shortcut rather than providing meaningful insight. storms often are an unoriginal objective correlative: they evoke emotion immediately, but lazily. the premise that someone is dreaming about storms... now, that seems a bit on the nose.

Take Shelter utilizes dreams, storms, and dreams about storms in the most economical and evocative way i've seen. this is at once a film about family, a film about understanding, a film about one's own personal truth v. an objective truth, a film about identity, a film about fear, a film about death and life and finding meaning in insignificance. this film addresses a number of allegorical and philosophical questions & anxieties, yet never shoehorns any of its narrative or emotion in favor of vagueness. i think it's because Nichols is so fucking smart with his writing, is so fucking precise with what world he's created and what character trajectories he's chosen to tell.

Curtis's dreams are nightmares, which are ambiguously projections, or prophecies, or premonitions, or psychosis. mental illness is not a cheap shortcut though, it is not a stereotypical red herring. there is such meaning & tragedy to Curtis's inability to communicate his internal struggle that stands alone from the imminent disaster that he perceives. Nichols grounds his drama in the family, making this not about if Curtis's delusions are "true," but how his delusions affect his loved ones, who he is ultimately trying to protect. the stakes are such that there will be demise either way. for Curtis, it is a matter of whether he is disintegrating as a man, a father, a husband, on the cusp of losing everything he wants to save, or whether the world is going to disintegrate. the former, indeed, almost seems more terrifying, more tragic.

is anyone seeing this? Curtis asks to no one. because the only thing scarier than the storm is that there is no storm to fear. or, that there is no storm to fear that anyone else fears.

the way that Nichols portrays Curtis's relationship with Samantha and his daughter is so, so beautiful. that she never wavers from him. that she chooses him, again and again. that she makes sacrifices for him. i know that sacrifices cannot always be made for others. especially when they need help, but do not want help for themselves. it is no one else's responsibility to save another person, vow or not. but that this time, in this one film, we get to see such a depth of understanding, that does not pivot around knowing, but instead believing -- that means a lot. that has such a delicate weight to it, and i'm thankful for it.

i haven't even said a damn word about how refined the cinematography is, how every scene has a tension imbedded into it, emphasized by the fluidity of the camera & score. i should also say something about the ending, but it was my favorite part, so if you don't know what happens, stay that way until you see it. there's so much to be said about this film, but Curtis says something about his dreams that i think stands true for Take Shelter itself: it's a feeling. and boy, did i feel it.

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