Take Shelter

Take Shelter ★★★★★

I am struck by the compassion of this movie. It expresses a core belief in decency: when the family doctor immediately understands what Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is getting at, and when the banker tries to stop Curtis from bad decisions. It’s easy for apocalyptic movies to get paranoid and suspicious. Take Shelter maintains a humane point of view.

This is likewise true in terms of technique. In the opening scenes, Jeff Nichols shows us real dangers. Those old boards in the back yard are not the product of mental illness. The real rain is a true problem for the oil drill. It would, again, have been easy to completely populate Curtis’ world with imaginary danger. That would have made for a lesser movie. 

Michael Shannon plays Curtis as a man who knows what his mental state is. Jessica Chastain’s Samantha doesn't know what’s going on with her husband, at first, but she has the ability to bear the knowledge. That scene in the Lions Club is great because Chastain has been showing us Samantha’s strength in tiny ways. Her reaction is consistent without being predictable. The two of them delivered powerhouse performances.

I love apocalyptic themes; my double feature with this is We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. Both films are pertinent to our age, when real concerns about the decay of society read to others as paranoid conspiracy theories. In 2023, major media outlets are seriously discussing how memes affect elections. What’s a sane response to that? 

“There’s a storm coming,” says Curtis, a decade before that phrase was adopted by the most damaging conspiracy of the era. It’s a coincidence. No wonder people go mad.

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